Posted Oct 22 2009 10:36AM
The possibilities were plentiful for Antonio McDyess over the summer. With a 13-year NBA resume as a smart player, a good teammate, a guy who can still look smoother than satin sheets and be as unforgiving as a sledgehammer, he could have punched his ticket to any contender.
But to him, there was only one choice. If he weren't wearing a Spurs jersey today, McDyess likely would have retired.
"I was strongly considering it," said the 6-foot-9 veteran, who was a key part of San Antonio's offseason makeover. "I definitely had retirement in the back of my head and wasn't sure if I want to play anymore.
"I looked around at a lot of other teams, other places, considered the options and, to be honest, I felt this was the only one for me."
The truth is, McDyess had been trying to find his way to Texas and to the Spurs for years. He had always watched the way Tim Duncan played, the way Gregg Popovich coached, the way the entire organization simply hummed along doing its business and figured he'd fit like a hand into a custom-made glove.
After he came into the league in 1995 as another of those high-flying phenoms who could dunk everything he got his hands on, McDyess lasted through knee injuries and all those seasons by being a down-to-earth personality who does all of the little things along with the big ones.
He bounced from Denver to Phoenix back to Denver to New York back to Phoenix and Detroit in pursuit of a championship, less the featured star than the invaluable cog in the machinery. Oh, he could still go out and get you 22 points or a dozen rebounds or a handful of blocks. But it's that work ethic that shone through, and that made McDyess and the Spurs mutually attractive.
"We've admired the way he plays for a number of years," said Spurs general manager R.C. Buford. "We've always had the feeling that Antonio would be a good fit on our team. We're just glad that things could finally work out."
The Spurs made their biggest summer splash by trading for wingman Richard Jefferson in hope of giving a jolt to their transition game and offense. But the addition of veterans Theo Ratliff and McDyess were no less critical in the race to keep pace with the Lakers, Denver, Dallas and the rest in the Western Conference.
Just as he did in Detroit, McDyess will likely come off the bench, because he feels more comfortable that way. But it doesn't lessen his role. When starter Matt Bonner comes out, McDyess will provide much more offensive punch and shot-blocking while playing in the middle to allow Tim Duncan to stay at power forward.
The opportunity to play alongside Duncan would appeal to anyone. But it was more than just one player who drew McDyess to the Spurs.
"If you look at the history of this team ever since 'Pop' took over and established the way he wanted to do things, the way guys interact with each other, on the court, off the court, that's what I wanted to be a part of," McDyess said. "I just feel like where I'm at as a player, it was a good fit with these guys. History speaks for itself here. Four championships in the past 10 years are phenomenal to me and everything about the atmosphere of the franchise made it a no-brainer."
There have, of course, been previous links between McDyess and the Spurs. In his first season in Detroit, the Pistons lost Game 7 of the 2005 NBA Finals in San Antonio.
"I remember standing on the floor and watching them celebrate," McDyess said. "Some of these guys took a ring from me that night. I try not to think about that too much now. Still, when I went to Tony Parker's house a few weeks ago, he showed that ring and I would like to have cried. I guess if you can't beat them, join them."
The one bauble that McDyess has that's eluded Parker and Duncan is an Olympic gold medal. McDyess was a late addition to the Team USA roster for the Sydney Olympics in 2000 when Duncan was bogged down in rehabilitation from knee surgery. McDyess wound up getting a key offensive rebound and scored a follow-up bucket to get the U.S. past Lithuania in the semifinals.
"I'm appreciative of the gold medal and the Olympic experience, no question," McDyess said. "I guess Tim and I have done a flip-flop. I got his gold medal and he got my ring. But hey, there's no reason now we can't get another one together."
Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here.
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