The San Antonio Spurs have been one of the best teams in the NBA over the last few years. They have been written off time and time again, and yet they continue to come back stronger and stronger. After this past season and the Game 7 loss, plenty began to write them off yet again and wonder how they were going to rebuild. Well, this offseason was especially different due to the Spurs actually in pursuit of one of the big-name free agents, LaMarcus Aldridge. The veteran big man has been special throughout his entire career in Portland but has never been made it past the second round in the playoffs. Some may say it is more due to Aldridge, but he has done all that is possible to make it happen in Portland for the Trailblazers. At this juncture of his career, Aldridge had a choice to make. He had teams like Los Angeles, Phoenix and New York coming for him in free agency and willing to pay him max contract money. All the while Portland could have actually gave him more money and years. In the end, it was about the money and the winning that could happen as well. Aldridge has decided to play for the San Antonio Spurs. And now he and Kawhi Leonard are two of the highest paid players on a team that has its sites set on winning another title. But what makes this signing even more important is the pairing of Tim Duncan with a guy who some scream is similar in Aldridge. Examining their relationship brings some similarities to a previous relationship between two players in San Antonio.
When Duncan first arrived in the NBA, many were already aware of him and his talents. But what some wondered is how Duncan would fit beside veteran David Robinson. The Admiral, as Robinson is called, had been the focal point of the Spurs offense for most of his career. He had carried the Spurs offensively and set the tone defensively for them. But entering Duncan’s rookie season, Robinson was beginning to slow down and injuries were starting to limit him. Robinson could have been disgruntled and not wanted to give some direction of the offense up to Duncan. But he realized that Tim Duncan could have been the piece needed to help the Spurs reach the ultimate achievement: a championship. And in his rookie season, Duncan was definitely let know he was the man in the paint. In his first and second years in the NBA, Duncan averaged 21 points per game. But it was in the 1999 postseason that Duncan became the man for the Spurs. He would go on to average 23 points per game along with 12 rebounds per game as the Spurs won their first title. At that official point, the torch was officially passed. No more was there Mr. Robinson. Instead, the Big Fundamental took over the scene and it became his team over the time. That never would have happened if David Robinson did not see the big picture. And two championships later (1999 and 2003), the Spurs transformed into the standard bearer of winning in the West.
Duncan is now the elder statesman in San Antonio. And because of the age of Duncan, it is starting to look like it’s time to transfer the focus of the offense to someone else. With LaMarcus Aldridge there, Duncan’s role will decrease. Duncan is still very effective offensively and that is something that will benefit the Spurs. But in order for them to take the next step, Duncan has to relinquish the power he once had in San Antonio. The amazing thing is almost 18 years later, Duncan is playing the elder man in this situation. Although Aldridge is 30, he has never won a ring or advanced beyond the second round. What Duncan’s role will be now is to impart his wisdom onto Aldridge. For his part, Aldridge brings more versatility to the Spurs offense and could probably cover more ground. But the new Twin Towers is something that can be beneficial as Duncan is winding down. Imagine the amount of punishment the Spurs could dish out with all the pieces they have. And ultimately this move just put the Spurs back in the hunt for a title. But for them to make it, Aldridge has to be ready to take over the reins.
The Spurs are definitely making good moves to make it happen come playoff time. But the sacrifice of Duncan and Robinson are things that really make these types of things work contractually-wise and personnel wise. The first baton was passed from The Admiral to The Big Fundamental in Tim Duncan. And now the baton is about to pass on to Aldridge. San Antonio is now known for not only winning, but the unselfishness of its star players. And with that, you end up with a team that has multiple championships.