Friday, April 15, 2016

The Riverwalk: The Stride for Five Rings

Tim Duncan, "Mr. Fundamental", has chosen to retire after 20 years in the league and after winning a 4th championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 5 seasons.

The veteran-led squad bested the Cleveland Cavaliers in 5 games, winning 4-1 and making LeBron James a dissatisfied runner-up yet again.

With a new season comes new faces, and for the Spurs that happens for one reason: An NBA player's desire to win it all. With the departure of Ray Allen, who shot the lights out in the definitive game 5 of the NBA Finals, and the tenacious "AK", Andrei Kirilenko, the Spurs were left shorthanded as both men left with an NBA title as a capstone on their respective careers.

Thaddeus Young, who has playoff experience with the Philadelphia 76ers before moving to the Brooklyn Nets, has been sought after by Coach Gregg Popovich in the past for his hustle plays. San Antonio almost acquired Young before, and when asked about it after the NBA Trade Deadline passed, the 6'8" power forward told reporters:

“You know, [joining the Spurs] is a great opportunity. I’m one of those guys that just wants to win. We play the game and make a lot of money, but this is our career, and me personally, I want to win. I want to play for a winning team, and I want to win a championship. At the end of the day, right now, the trade deadline is over and I’m just trying to develop guys and rebuild the culture.”

When asked by reporters which player on the Spurs he sees himself being comparable to, Thaddeus chose Kawhi Leonard for what Leonard does for the Spurs when he's on the floor, chipping in on both ends and often being the spark that wins games. Young might not have been able to rebuild the Nets into a winning team, but it's not without effort on his part, both on and off the court. When asked if he’s thought about this off-season, and the possibility that his name will again surface in trade rumors, Young said he hasn’t thought about it. And when he was asked again about joining Leonard in San Antonio, he smiled saying: “It can happen. Like I said, I can play with anybody.”

Well, now Thaddeus Young has his opportunity to play alongside the new star on the Riverwalk, as the old yet still capable guard of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan ride into the storm once again for the Spurs. In the photo above, Young did battle against Boris Diaw, who the Nets had requested in the past trade negotiations and they got him officially this time around. Losing Diaw is a tough realization for the Spurs, but they know that's part of the game and they know what they're getting in return with Young. Tiago Splitter will remain in Tim Duncan's absence and had previously been traded to the Nets with Tayshaun Prince for Kevin Garnett, with "The Big Ticket" winning three championships with the Spurs before voicing his desire to return home to the Timberwolves for the end of his career, but before last season Splitter was brought back to the Spurs.

Amidst the turmoil of the Chicago Bulls organization, two-time NBA Champion Pau Gasol has opted out of his contract and signed with the San Antonio Spurs in pursuit of one more title. Gasol's post-proficiency will most definitely help the Spurs with Duncan's departure. The versatile Spaniard wants to win and be part of a winning culture again after years of frustration with the post-championship Los Angeles Lakers and a disappointing season with the Chicago Bulls.

Also returning to the Spurs is Tayshaun Prince, who became a journeyman visiting the Grizzlies, Celtics and ironically the Timberwolves after being traded to the Nets for Garnett, and is now back with the team that matched his success with the Detroit Pistons. Prince has admittedly lost his once-stellar defensive capabilities that neutralized Kobe Bryant once upon a time, but when asked about retiring, the UK product defiantly said it's not happening anytime soon. Prince meshed well with the Spurs mentality as a team in the past and Coach Pop hopes he will fit right back in, supporting Kawhi Leonard off the bench at the small forward position.

The roster is still not final, but the Spurs let prospect Ray McCallum go and picked up the former Lakers-champion, Jordan Farmar, to back up Parker at the point guard position, as well as Shane Larkin, who has bounced around the league so far in his young career but shows pick-and-roll knowledge and has voiced his desire to stay put with a team that wants to win. With Manu Ginobili returning to shooting guard off the bench, sharpshooter Danny Green will have to play strong with Ray Allen now gone. The Spurs have also signed Dewayne Dedmon from the Orlando Magic, a scrappy go-getter player that can backup Splitter at the center position. One thing is sure: Coach Popovich will mold this team into the juggernaut of the western conference again come playoff time, with promising female assistant coach, and former WNBA player, Becky Hammon as counsel with the rest of the inspiring and the tremendous Spurs organization that includes Ime Udoka as assistant coach.

Pending Roster:

Tony Parker (Captain)
Kawhi Leonard (Co-Captain)
Manu Ginobili (Co-Captain)
Pau Gasol
Thaddeus Young
Tiago Splitter
Danny Green
Tayshaun Prince
Jordan Farmar
Dewayne Dedmon
Shane Larkin