Woke to the news that LaMarcus Aldridge had finally chosen the San Antonio Spurs as his new NBA home, with a 4 year, $80M deal, spurning the Phoenix Suns and (tee hee) Los Angeles Lakers.
As a Spurs fan, I am ecstatic. This gives us a superstar to ease the day when Timmy Duncan finally admits that he’s a cyborg and returns to Skylab, and keeps us a title contender for years to come.
Look at this starting lineup and drool, Spurs fans:
That’s a contender right there.
This move is significant, not only for the Spurs, but for the NBA as a whole. The Spurs have never been a destination for big name free agents. Sure, names have been thrown out there but nothing ever stuck. The common notion was that San Antonio is a small market, and NBA players don’t want to play in small markets. Bad for their brand, that old chestnut.
But what NBA players like is money and winning. Some like one and pretend to like the other, to appear less selfish. Some genuinely covet both. I think Aldridge is in the latter category.
The Spurs have built something special with the Big 3 and Pop. Five championships, a string of 50+ win seasons and a lot of great memories as a fan of this team for a quarter of a century. Man, I’m old. Some painful memories in there too. I don’t want to appear spoiled though. We got five, that’s five more than I anticipated when I was watching Robinson’s Spurs flame out against the Jazz in the 1990’s.
And because there is now a culture of sustained success in San Antone, marquee names are seeing this as a destination. We will never have the appeal of Los Angeles, and what being a Laker can mean, but what we can offer is 50 wins and a deep playoff run year after year, and a town that absolutely adores its players. Clearly, Aldridge saw that. Being from Texas helped too, which no doubt influenced DeAndre Jordan’s Dallas move as well.
Meanwhile, the Lakers lost out on every free agent they coveted. In their pitch meeting to Aldridge, the talk allegedly revolved more around Los Angeles itself as opposed to actual basketball. I think that until Kobe Bryant retires, the Lakers will be spinning their wheels. I have a lot of respect for Kobe, but he doesn’t seem to get the big picture. Guys like Nowitzki and Duncan have taken significant pay cuts to allow their respective teams to build a stronger nucleus around them, while Kobe demands $24M a year and is roughly three to four years past his prime. I don’t blame a guy for getting paid, not at all, but he then can’t complain that the Lakers brass are not doing everything they can to construct contender when he’s munching up that much salary.
And the Knicks. My God, the Knicks. What a hot mess of a franchise. Two years ago they won 54 games and got to the second round of the playoffs. So far, their biggest free agent hauls have been Robin Lopez and Aaron Afflalo. Decent pieces to add to a contender but not a 20 win team.
So the big market thing is now an antiquated notion, gone the way of the dodo.
Marc Gasol stayed in Memphis (small market), Aldridge chose San Antonio (small market), Greg Monroe took Milwaukee’s offer (small market), Kevin Love re-signed with Cleveland (small market).
This is a good thing for the NBA, and for parity in the league.