In 2000, the San Antonio Spurs’ offseason had the chance to reshape the franchise for the worse.
The San Antonio Spurs usually stay quiet in the offseason, at least under Gregg Popovich’s tenure. That did not happen in 2018, with the departures of Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, but the team will move on and head towards another season.
Nearly two decades ago, however, San Antonio almost faced its most cataclysmic offseason ever. It could have lost the franchise four championships and changed its direction from what Spurs fans know of now.
The 2000 offseason almost shook everything up, so let’s look back at what happened that summer, before the 2000-01 season:
2000 NBA Draft
The 2000 NBA Draft produced some veterans, but will hardly be known for its star power. Jamal Crawford, Mike Miller and Kenyon Martin, all of whom lasted at least 15 years, stand at the top of this class.
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For the San Antonio Spurs, they did not have a first round pick but walked out with two second-rounders: Chris Carrawell of Duke at No. 41 overall and Cory Hightower of Indian Hills Community College at No. 54 overall. Neither player may sound familiar, as Carrawell and Hightower never appeared in an NBA game.
Between them, this draft produced Michael Redd, one of the best second-round gems of the 21st century, and even led to long-time role player Brian Cardinal. The Spurs eventually saw their ssecond-roundchoices develop better and play in an actual game, so losing out on someone, or two players, did not impact them.
The 2000 NBA Draft kept everything the same with the Spurs, but free agent moves changed the look of their 2000-01 roster.
Next: Signing Raja Bell and Derrick Anderson
Signing Raja Bell
He never played a game for them, but Raja Bell signed with the San Antonio Spurs before the 2000-01 season. As an undrafted free agent, Bell latched on with the organization in August, but never appeared for them and eventually went back to the open market.
The Philadelphia 76ers gave Bell a 10-day contract, brought him back for 2001-02 and carried on to have a successful 12-year career with the Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, Charlotte Hornets and Golden State Warriors.
What if Bell received a chance with the Spurs? There’s no guarantee he would have stuck, given the roster’s veteran-laden look, but he could have become a contributor on the teams that continuously made the playoffs and won the 2003 championship.
Signing Derrick Anderson
Derrick Anderson joined the Spurs in 2000 and had one solid season, with 15.5 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. This was as arguably the next scorer up to David Robinson and Tim Duncan, playing all 82 games and averaging 39.9 percent from three-point range on a top team in the Western Conference.
Anderson had an unceremonious departure, however, in the 2001 offseason that caused his departure to happen sooner than expected.
The Spurs presented the third-year pro a six-year, $43 million contract offer, which he declined, due to a deadline they put in place to decide. This ruffled Anderson, who said, “I’m not going back to San Antonio.”
Anderson was eventually traded to the Portland Trail Blazers, and his numbers never matched his San Antonio production. The Silver and Black still walked out successfully from this deal in 2000, however, and even received a player (Steve Smith) back in 2001.
Next: Tim Duncan almost left
Signing Danny Ferry
After 10 seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the San Antonio Spurs signed Danny Ferry in 2000 to space the floor for their frontcourt stars. He did just that, with a 42.5 percent three-point shooting mark in three seasons, wrapping up his career with the 2003 championship. So this low-end deal worked out for San Antonio as a piece off the bench.
Tim Duncan almost left for Orlando
Tim Duncan retired in 2016 as the face of Spurs Basketball. Five championships, MVP awards and other accolades highlighted his 19 seasons in the NBA. However, his career in the Alamo City nearly ended after just three seasons.
Duncan nearly departed the Spurs for a lucrative offer with the Orlando Magic in 2000, with the prospect of joining rising stars, Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady. The Magic offered six years, $67.5 million, which the Big Fundamental almost took if not for Doc Rivers, then the Orlando coach, who said Duncan could not bring family on flights to games.
What if the Magic signed Duncan? It’s unknown if the Spurs would ever see championships in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014. Three of those four titles were led by this legendary power forward, and without him, who knows what position it puts San Antonio in, especially changing their draft position to select Tony Parker in 2001.
The Spurs would not be this model organization of the past 21 season without Duncan. Instead, they may just be a franchise that blended in and tried to navigate the ever-changing landscape of the NBA.