Sign of decline: Michael Finley's escape from fading San Antonio Spurs
My Quick Take: Years ago, Michael Finley, as an unrestricted free agent, took less money, term, and minutes to sign with the San Antonio Spurs. He sacrificed because San Antonio was a sought after destination, capable of winning an NBA Title every year.
Today, he asked for his release –and got it. The Spurs honoured their veteran’s request, buying him out and allowing him to sign with the team of his choosing as an unrestricted free agent.
Finley’s release is the latest, and perhaps most telling, indicator that the San Antonio Spurs’ Empire and run as contenders is over.
There are other obvious signs: Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are older –and look it; Tony Parker, as great as he is, can’t compensate for Duncan and Ginobili; and Richard Jefferson, the grand off-season addition, has struggled.
And San Antonio, as a team, has fallen down the Western Conference ladder and there’s no reason to believe their usual second half push will occur.
The Finley saga hurts, though. Sure, he wasn’t playing. But established and proud veterans have always accepted lesser roles in San Antonio because they won.
Steve Kerr, Glen Robinson, Nick Van Excel, Robert Horry and others all, at times, took turns sitting for long, indefinite stretches. So did Finley. Until today.
Clearly, Finley believes San Antonio has no realistic chance at a championship or even pushing deep in the playoffs. If he believed the Spurs had a chance, he’d continue sacrificing.
Worst of all, Coach Gregg Popovich accommodated his request. Suppose Finley signs with the Los Angeles Lakers and bolsters their bench. Suppose the Lakers and Spurs meet in the first round of the playoffs. And suppose Finley nails a few threes and holds his own defensively.
How does Popovich sell this to the ticket buying public in San Antonio? How does he justify letting a player leave for nothing and then have him help defeat the Spurs?
Of course, no organization wants an unhappy player –even one as classy and well liked in the dressing room as Finley. Still, the optics of this situation is potentially terrible.
Cleary, the San Antonio Spurs’ Empire is ending. Finley’s buyout could well be the start of greater issues for the former champions.
Is Finley’s release a sign of San Antonio’s decline? Get at us in the comment box below.
Photo courtesy of jmtimages.