It’s odd to contemplate the Spurs as anything but a contender because that’s what they’ve been during my entire lifetime as an NBA fan, but that will most likely no longer be the case entering next season. It felt as though every single year of Tim Duncan’s career was spent pondering the question, “is this the year the Spurs will finally fall off?” And now it seems on the verge of happening. Maybe Timmy was the glue that held the Spurs organization together and not Pop? It’s difficult to conceive of a Spurs team being enveloped by the drama which has unfolded in the past week surrounding Kawhi Leonard, but it’s happened. This is the sort of thing that tears apart other teams, not the Spurs. (An aside: how many of you all are old enough to remember when Scottie Pippen went on television and declared that Charles Barkley owed him an apology for “coming to play with his sorry fat butt.” In hindsight, I can’t believe that actually happened.)
So here we are. They have to trade him or he’ll just walk the following summer. This was decades in the works, dating back to Pop first stabbing Bob Hill in the back and taking over a 62 win team which had only plummeted in the standings because of David Robinson’s back injury. What amazing, amazing fortune to land Duncan in the draft to bridge the end of Robinson’s career. Meanwhile, we got Steve Francis and were treated to the darkest period in Rockets history. (Some of you will argue me on that. Leave it in the comments.) To me–and anyone else actually following this situation–it seems like Boston is the obvious fit, particularly if they are able to maintain a core containing Irving, Tatum, and Horford in the aftermath of the deal. With Lebron’s expected departure, you can pencil Boston into the Finals for next season.
How does any of this affect the Rockets? For one, they won’t have to worry about San Antonio for the remaining peak years of James Harden’s prime. And 2) Lebron’s fate could be tied to how this plays out. I still think James/George/Leonard is a trio better suited to knock off Golden State than what the Rockets’ star trio would look like, though many of you disagree. I stated on Twitter the other day that Houston’s depth would be ravaged in a James trade, to which many of you responded pointing out that I was overlooking the Lakers’ lack of depth. My point was that Houston’s main advantage, if controlling for the star trios in such a scenario, would have been their depth, which would be gutted. We are imagining here that Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker would both be needed in a trade. Ultimately, it’s all a moot point anyways because it doesn’t matter where Kawhi is wanting to go – the Spurs don’t have to send him there. All that matters is where else Kawhi is okay with going, similar to the ‘Melo situation last summer.