Top Free Agents of the Duncan Era
By Layton Garrett
Many memories have been made during Tim Duncan’s 19 year career. There have also been a number of top free agents as well. We dive into those that have come across San Antonio.
This list will deal with the excitement at the time the Spurs were getting a certain free agent player. Again, a Danny Green who was a big part of two Spurs Finals teams, and a Championship is not on this list. Green, Bruce Bowen, Avery Johnson and the like were huge for the Spurs, but did not generate a buzz when they initially came.
The guys on this list were already known, and for the Spurs to get them in silver and black was thrilling!
-Brent Barry in the summer of 2004. I had seen him win a slam dunk contest as a Clipper and hit 3 pointers as a Sonic. Barry made an impact in his very first year with the Spurs. He was a part of a tight playoff rotation in 2005, and helped the Spurs to capture their 3rd Championship.
His 3-point barrage in Game 1 vs the Suns in the Western Conference Finals was Barry’s greatest game as a Spur in my opinion. Barry continued to perform well for the Spurs through the 2008 season.
That season, he was traded away with Francisco Elson for Kurt Thomas. He was later bought out of his contract and returned to the Spurs and helped them make a long run to the Western Conference Finals. Barry also contributed off the bench in the 2007 Championship run.
Next: Robert Horry
Robert Horry shoots a game-winning shot to put the Spurs up 96-95 with 7.6 seconds left in overtime against the Detroit Pistons in Game Five of the 2005 NBA Finals. (Nick Laham/Getty Images)
5. Robert Horry in the summer of 2003. After the Spurs had vanquished the Lakers on their way to a Championship in 2003, the Lakers own Robert Horry was released and joined the Spurs. I had mixed feelings, because as a Spurs fan who had watched the Spurs play against him and the hated Lakers, it was weird to have him on the team.
However, Horry was a proven winner, and you couldn’t help but be excited. After a loss to the Lakers in the following year’s playoffs, it looked like Phil Jackson cut ties at the right time with Big Shot Rob. One year later, Horry was instrumental in helping the Spurs climb the mountain top once again with a Championship in 2005.
He was as clutch for the Spurs as he had been before, with both the Rockets and the Lakers. In addition to numerous clutch shots, solid defense, and an array of intangibles, Horry also hip checked Steve Nash in Game 4 of playoff series vs the Suns in 2007.
The suspension of Horry for the rest of the series was manageable, because Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw both left the bench during the ensuing scuffle, and were suspended for Game 5. The Spurs took both games 5 and 6, and soon after, Championship trophy number 4. In the series prior to that, Horry dropped a bomb on the Nuggest in Game 4 to help the Spurs to a 3-1 series lead:
Next: Pau Gasol
Pau Gasol summer of 2016. Hopefully this signing pans out as one of the great free agent signings in Spurs history. With Duncan retiring, and Parker and Ginobii aging, the Spurs needed someone very good to play alongside Leonard and Aldridge.
Quite frankly, Leonard and Aldridge need some help beyond that which the Spurs role players can give them. Whenever, Duncan didn’t have both Ginobili and Parker playing well beside him, or were without a hurt Ginobili, the Spurs fell short.
The Spurs needed another go to weapon, and Gasol is definitely a weapon with a soft touch, a post game, deft passing, solid rebounding, and the ability to score in one on one situations. He will hopefully be the newest member of the Spurs new Big 3, that was only a Big 2 last season.
Next: Michael Finley
Feb 5, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and center Tim Duncan (21) talk with former Spurs player Michael Finley after the game against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. The Spurs defeat the Mavericks 116-90. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Finley in summer of 2005. I remember driving home from somewhere, and hearing on the radio that the Spurs had acquired Michael Finley. I was so pumped! The fact that owner, Mark Cuban of our rival Dallas Mavericks had released him, and still had to pay him a salary while he played for the Spurs, just made it all the sweeter!
Similar to Horry, Finley fell short against his former team the following year. Finley played great in that series though, and the next year was fantastic for the Spurs in their playoff run of 2007. Finley hoisted his 1st Championship trophy and hit countless silky smooth jumpers throughout those playoffs.
Finley set a Spurs playoff record with 8 made 3 pointers vs the Nuggets in Game 5 of the 1st round series. In addition to that game, and a buzzer beater vs the Lakers in a regular season game in 2007, the play I hold most dear was the dunk and head butt of the ball vs his former mavericks in the 2006 playoffs:
Next: Mario Ellie and Steve Kerr
June 1, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr addresses the media in a press conference during NBA Finals media day at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Mario Elie and Steve Kerr in summer of 1998. I loved both of these players! I cheered Kerr with the Bulls, and I cheered Elie with the Rockets. To have them both come join the Spurs was a dream come true!
Kerr’s heroics mostly came later in the 2003 Championship run, but Elie was a key member of the Spurs 1st Championship in 1999.
He delivered timely, clutch shots, and ferocious defense at all times. He was perhaps at his best in the 1999 Finals vs the New York Knicks, averaging 11.6 points, 4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 steals while helping Sean Elliott chase Allen Houston and Latrell Sprewell around on defense.
A memorable regular season game against his former Rockets in 1999 was an amazing comeback complete with a Mario Elie dagger:
Next: LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge summer of 2015. I was so elated to get Aldridge, who I had long admired and respected, that it almost felt like another Championship.
By far the greatest free agent talent to ever come to San Antonio. Aldridge had a very strong first season that only picked up steam as it went along. After two huge performances in Games 1 and 2 vs the Thunder, Aldridge along with Leonard did all they could to lead the Spurs the rest of the series.
must read: Spurs Player Preview: LaMarcus Aldridge
They didn’t get the help they needed, but hopefully Pau Gasol can be that help. Aldridge carried the Spurs in Game 2 vs the Thunder in the 2016 playoffs: