Editor’s note: This story has been updated throughout.
Three days after the conclusion of their 19-year Tim Duncan era, the Spurs pressed ahead to their future without him by officially retaining one of his most valued teammates and adding another impactful big man.
On a day when the Spurs finalized formal contracts with seven players, the Thursday signings of veteran guard Manu Ginobili to a $14 million deal and the addition of 7-foot, four-time All-NBA center Pau Gasol were highlights.
Gasol’s signing was the first announced by the team, which carefully sequenced the order of the signings to comply with the NBA’s salary cap rules. Sources put the value of Gasol’s deal at $30 million over the two seasons it covers and the Spurs had to clear room under the league’s new $94.143 million salary cap to make the deal work. A 35-year-old veteran of 15 NBA seasons with two NBA championship rings, Gasol will immediately step into the starting lineup in Duncan’s stead with the clear understanding that there is no replacing the greatest player in franchise history.
About eight hours later, General Manager R.C. Buford and his basketball operations staff completed the busy day of signings by getting Ginobili’s signature on his new deal. One of the most popular players in franchise history, Ginobili signed for one year only, perhaps a signal that he intends to make it his farewell season. He will turn 39 in two weeks.
Sources familiar with the deal confirmed that Ginobili turned down a two-year offer from the Philadelphia 76ers that would have paid him a total of more than $30 million. Having Ginobili in a uniform other than his familiar No. 20 Spurs uniform was something the Spurs would not allow, so negotiations produced a salary that acknowledges the fiscal sacrifice he made last season. At the time, he played for slightly more than $2.8 million, part of a two-year contract he accepted to help clear salary cap space so the Spurs could sign free agent LaMarcus Aldridge to a four-year deal worth $84 million. He opted out of the second year of that deal to become an unrestricted free agent, setting the stage for Friday’s signing.
A two-time All-NBA selection and two-time All-Star, Ginobili will enter his 15th season in silver and black as the NBA’s active leader in career winning percentage, 72.8%. He is the Spurs franchise’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made (1,342) and No. 2 in club history in steals (1,267), fourth in games played (923) and free throws made (3,184), as well as fifth in points scored (12,950) and assists (3,655).
A member of Argentina’s 2004 Olympic gold medal team, he is currently in training with the Argentine national team in preparation for his fourth appearance in the Olympic tournament.
Ginobili’s return means that Gasol, 35, won’t be the oldest player on the rapidly changing Spurs roster.
Alongside Tim Duncan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kevin Garnett, Gasol is one of only six players in NBA history to reach 19,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists, and 1,500 blocks in his career.
Gasol spent the past two seasons in Chicago, where he averaged 17.6 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 3.4 assists in 150 games with the Bulls. He was an Eastern Conference All-Star last season, his sixth selection as an All-Star. He averaged 16.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 4.1 assists last season, the only player in the NBA to average at least 15.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists. He made 46.9% of his shots (467-995) and 79.2% (229-289) of his free throws in an average of 31.8 minutes per game.
In 1,055 career NBA games, Gasol has averaged 18.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.68 blocks while shooting 51% (7,348-14,404) from the floor and 75.5% (4,439-5,878) from the free throw line in an average of 35.3 minutes per game for the Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Lakers, and Chicago Bulls. In 115 playoff games he averaged 16.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 3.4 assists.
A native of Catalonia, he has been a member of the Spanish National Team since 2001 and played in the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympic tournaments, a key contributor to Spain’s silver medal teams in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games.
The Spurs had to make several difficult personnel decisions to create the room under the NBA’s new $94.143 million salary cap to sign Gasol. That included trading Boris Diaw and his $7 million 2016-17 contract to the Utah Jazz for the rights to Utah’s 2015 second-round draft pick, guard Olivier Hanlan; opting not to match the three-year, $21 million offer the Detroit Pistons made to restricted free agent center Boban Marjanovic; and, ultimately, releasing Duncan from his $6.4 million contract.
The Spurs had tried to recruit Gasol when he became a free agent after the 2013-14 season but lost him to a more lucrative offer from the Bulls. This time, he reportedly turned down more lucrative offers from two other teams to join the Spurs.
The Spurs added a second 7-footer when they formally signed free agent Dewayne Dedmon, who played the past two-plus seasons with the Orlando Magic. They also formally signed their 2016 first-round draft pick, guard DeJounte Murray. He had been playing with the Spurs in the Las Vegas Summer League without a signed contract after acquiring an insurance policy to cover himself in case of a catastrophic injury.
Dedmon is a 26-year-old 7-footer who started 20 games for the Magic last season. In 58 games last season he averaged 4.4 points and 3.9 rebounds. After going undrafted in 2013, he worked his way up from the D-League and played for Golden State and Philadelphia before landing in Orlando, where he played a total of 133 games in two-plus seasons.
The Spurs also signed their 2016 first-round draft pick, guard DeJounte Murray, and three other players who have been with the summer league team at the Las Vegas Summer League: power forward Davis Bertans, guard Ryan Arcidiacono, and guard Bryn Forbes.
Bertans, a 23-year-old, 6-foot-10 center from Latvia, was the Spurs’ second-round draft pick in 2010. He played the past two seasons for Laboral Kutxa, of the first division of the Spanish ACB League, where he averaged 8.5 points and 3.1 rebounds and made 41.6% of his 3-point shots.
Arcidiacono’s and Forbes’ contracts are non-guaranteed.
At age 19, Murray will become the youngest player on the Spurs roster. The 29th overall pick in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft, the 6-foot-5 guard averaged 16.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.82 steals in 34 games, averaging 33.5 minutes per game. He signed a rookie scale contract that included an allowed 20% bonus, a four-year deal worth $6.02 million.
Top image: Spurs Forward Manu Ginobili looks forward moments before tip-off during the NBA Playoffs in 2016. Photo by Scott Ball.