As the NBA’s June 24 deadline for withdrawal from the Orlando Bubble approaches, let’s look at which San Antonio Spurs are most likely to sit out.
Months of patience from fans and diligence by Commissioner Adam Silver is slated to culminate in the return of the 2019-20 NBA season at the end of July. Given the financial ramifications of canceling the season altogether, Silver knew that the league needed to finish in some way shape or form, finalizing an Orlando Bubble plan that will include the No. 12 seed San Antonio Spurs.
There’s been meticulous reporting from the world’s greatest sources in NBA basketball over the course of these months. CBS Sports’ Jack Maloney reported that the league’s deadline for player withdrawal from the plan for resumption is June 24, which is this coming Wednesday.
The first player to officially withdraw from the season finale is former Spur and famed sharpshooter Davis Bertans, who is opting-out of a return to play. He’s a father to an infant and an international player who’d be returning to the States and putting his health at risk to play for a team with virtually no chance of making the NBA Playoffs, the Washington Wizards.
With Spurs star LaMarcus Aldridge out for the rest of the season as a result of shoulder surgery, it wouldn’t be surprising to see other Spurs decide to sit out. Whether it be an impending free-agent like DeMar DeRozan looking to preserve his health or an international player like Marco Belinelli who doesn’t want to travel, every player has a good reason not to show up.
Therefore, we must face the very candid reality that not all players are going to be ready and available for the silver and black when play resumes. There may even be coaches who might opt-out due to pre-existing health conditions or restrictions due to personal situations. Others could decide not to play to focus on social justice and bringing the Black Lives Matter movement to the forefront of our attention as a nation.
Regardless of their reasoning, these are the three individuals most likely to stay at home.
Next: The most honorable of mentions
Honorable Mention Tim Duncan didn’t sign on for this when he became an assistant coach with his beloved San Antonio Spurs.
There’s nothing to base this in besides who he’s shown himself to be, but San Antonio Spurs legend Tim Duncan was already an unlikely candidate to return this season. Even when he first signed on to be an assistant coach, it was widely recognized that Duncan probably wasn’t going to be on the bench for long and was around to keep himself occupied in his retirement.
Still, Duncan became a natural fit throughout the season, and the idea of Timmy entering the coaching ranks became significantly less outlandish. However, no one planned for a pandemic, and now Duncan is stuck with a difficult choice regarding his return to the team.
Having Duncan opt-out of the Orlando Bubble seems like the logical next step. He’s a homebody by nature and will not want to be apart from his wife and three children for an extended period. This is not to say that he’ll stay home because after all, he’s full of surprises, but the franchise star and All-Time great doesn’t need to be there for any financial reasons. He’s with the team for the love of the game and because he and the Spurs are so closely intertwined.
Everyone has their limits and I don’t think anyone would be startled if Timmy simply didn’t want to go live in a Bubble for at least a month while his family is at home waiting for him to return.
Next: The heart and soul of the team
San Antonio Spurs point guard Patty Mills could opt to stay at home.
Even though rates of coronavirus infection are increasing in Australia, according to Reuters, the numbers are still astronomically lower than those in San Antonio, TX right now. Therefore, to preserve the health and safety of both himself and his loved ones, Spurs point guard Patty Mills may opt to go to Australia instead of sticking around in the States.
At a certain point, you have to weigh if it’s worth it to partake in the Orlando bubble. Mills is 31 years old on a team largely encompassed by a young core. His veteran leadership has been crucial to the team even getting into the playoff picture in the first place, but to be quite honest, they’re probably not going to make it this year no matter how hard they try.
San Antonio’s leading frontcourt player is out and with that in mind, young players are going to be injected into the lineup. There’s a significant chance that Mills has his minutes reduced anyway, so why would he head to Orlando to wait for the inevitable? Once San Antonio is officially eliminated from postseason contention, his minutes are likely going to dwindle anyway, so why prolong what he could pretty easily predict from the safety of his home in Australia?
Patty could stay home, keep his family safe, make a pretty penny from the safety of his own home and return to the team refreshed in the following season to get them back into the postseason picture. It’d allow for more usage by combo guard Derrick White, which could bode well for the long-term implications of the Spurs’ playoff hopes.
Plus, without Patty, San Antonio’s draft outlook is bound to improve since he’s one of the only net-positive players the team has right now.
Next: A veteran with a history of health issues
Health should be the priority for San Antonio Spurs forward Rudy Gay.
For a veteran player with a long and unfortunate injury history, the Orlando bubble for a team so far out fo the playoff picture just doesn’t seem worth it. I don’t think anyone would hold it against veteran forward Rudy Gay if he sat out of the 2019-20 playoffs with his health and long-term future in mind.
Gay has just one more year left on his contract after this one and after nearly reaching the 50/40/90 club a year ago, he needs to rebuild his stock as a free-agent if he wants to secure one last legitimate contract before reaching his twilight. Therefore, Gay might be smart to preserve his health and let the young guns take his minutes at the end of the year.
Few players were confirmed to have taken part in Kyrie Irving’s meeting to discuss whether or not players should return and Rudy was one of them. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s for calling off the season, as many of the players in that meeting felt the opposite way, but his personal circumstances may suggest that his time would be better spent focusing on his family and side-projects including philanthropy, fashion and social justice reform.
As the second-oldest player on a young team, Gay has made enough money to accept his pay reduction and count on next year’s deal to make up for what he’s lost. Coming back from an Achilles injury and becoming a better version of yourself is nearly unheard of, but Gay did it with the silver and black, and putting all of the hard work he’s done on his body and game just isn’t worth coming back for a team with such a low chance of making the playoffs.
Even if the Spurs do make the playoffs, it’ll be to face the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round, which isn’t a matchup they want any part of. Gay would be wise to stay at home.
Next: Playing without their unquestioned leader
Playing without San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich makes sense.
Selfishly, fans want to see Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich out there calling plays and rallying his team for a playoff push. Still, it’s not safe or wise to send a 71-year-old man into a situation like this knowing that he’s considered at-risk of COVID-19. Unless he already had it, beat it, and has the antibodies, which is possible with multiple players, it’s not wise to have Popovich travel into the bubble to lead the Spurs.
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Popovich can still contribute via Zoom and other methods, but he should do so from the comfort of his own home. I can’t speak to anything regarding Popovich’s medical history and whether or not he has any other risk factors, but he’s 71. That should be enough of a case to know that it’s not worth having him there as opposed to sending 43-year-old Becky Hammon to serve as the team’s head coach as the longest-tenured assistant on the bench.
It’d allow San Antonio’s brass to see what it looks like with Hammon leading the charge. She’s an extraordinary basketball mind who studied coaching under Popovich for six seasons and has served the Summer League team extremely well in the past. There’s no one better for the job and can still convey Popovich’s messages along the way.
Coach Pop is an extraordinary human being who has lived a lot of life, but that doesn’t mean he should go around taking unnecessary risks. Staying home doesn’t equate to giving up his job because Pop can still watch all of the games and give feedback as we go. Pop could even call in and give speeches via FaceTime or Zoom during timeouts if need be!
It’s 2020 and we have the technology to keep Popovich involved without putting him in danger.