The San Antonio Spurs were almost involved in these three transactions over the years.
The San Antonio Spurs’ history of the 2000’s was shaped around Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. This “Big 3” gave the team four championships from 2003-2014, becoming one of the top organizations of the millennium.
Things didn’t look clean all the way through, however, with free agency nearly reshaping the look of the franchise. What if the Spurs lost Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili? How about if Tony Parker was moved and replaced by one of the NBA’s top point guards?
Once upon a time, all of this nearly happened in the early 2000’s. Let’s look at how San Antonio nearly had a different look.
3. Manu Ginobili leaves for the Nuggets in 2004
Manu Ginobili leaving the San Antonio Spurs seems like a far-fetched idea. At this point, it will never happen unless the two sides have a falling out that can’t be made up for.
In the 2004 offseason, Ginobili had the opportunity to leave the Spurs. He was only two years into his career and, at age 26, was set to get paid in NBA free agency. A spectacular season wasn’t had in the 2003-04 campaign (12.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists), but the upside was there for more.
The Denver Nuggets were the other serious suitor for Ginobili, as ESPN reported in 2004. The article noted Ginobili wanted to stay in San Antonio, but what if things were different?
The Spurs would be without one of the most popular players in franchise history, who then misses out on three NBA championships (2005, 2007, 2014), if the organization remained in contention. On the six-year, $50-55 million deal he signs with Denver, he aligns with Carmelo Anthony, one of the league’s best young scorers.
Would this still bring Allen Iverson via trade in 2006? If so, a trio of him, Ginobili, and Anthony has the chance to be dynamic and a perennial playoff team.
It’s only a brief outlook, but Ginobili going to Denver could have happened. This never did, of course, and 13 years later, he’s in his 16th season in the Alamo City.
Next: Jason Kidd signs
2. Jason Kidd signs with the Spurs in 2003
Jason Kidd will be known for the New Jersey Nets teams he led to the NBA Finals and the one title he won with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. This could have looked different, however, if Kidd joined the San Antonio Spurs in the 2003 offseason.
The Spurs already had a young point guard, Tony Parker in place. He played just two seasons and, at age 21, looked like the future of the position. With the chance to get an All-Star like Kidd, who was in the prime of his career, though, the Spurs eyed this upgrade.
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As Nets Daily noted in its look back of Kidd’s free-agent process, the Spurs’ brass attempted to express their interest in the regular season. General Manager RC Buford subtly sat in the stands for some of Kidd’s games in New Jersey, which the latter man caught wind of, but not the Nets.
The Nets also had no plan, while the Spurs had a “five-year plan” for what they would do with Kidd. However, he chose to remain in New Jersey after a last-minute convincing to remain with Richard Jefferson, Kenyon Martin, and the newly-signed Alonzo Mourning. Six years, $103 million also helps ease things.
If Kidd joined the Spurs in 2003, who knows how the future would have transpired. The Step Back recently looked at this, with a detailed take on everyone that would be impacted.
Next: Spurs lose Tim Duncan
1. Spurs lose Tim Duncan to the Magic in 2000
Losing Manu Ginobili may have been tolerated and not signing Jason Kidd wasn’t the worst thing, with Tony Parker already in place. If Tim Duncan departed in 2000, however, it would have been catastrophic.
In 2000 free agency, Duncan was nearly wooed by the Orlando Magic. He was a free agent and set to make top-level money after quickly developing into one of the NBA’s best power forwards. The
Magic offered six years, $67.5 million, which was a hefty contract at the time. He had the chance to join Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady, two of the top young wingers in the NBA. This was barely before Hill’s continuous injuries that marred the rest of his career.
This could have been an original “Big 3” before the term became popular with the 2010 Miami Heat. However, Duncan chose to remain in San Antonio and continue what he started with David Robinson.
Of course, we know how this resulted. Four more NBA championships came Duncan’s way, while those Magic teams never fulfilled the potential they once had. The landscape of the NBA could have looked different, however, without one of the Association’s greatest on the Spurs in the 2000’s. Who would have won the four titles in 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2014?