Playoffs 2018 West First Round: Warriors (2) vs. Spurs (7)

Offseason of change could be afoot for San Antonio Spurs

For the first time since 1996-97, the San Antonio Spurs’ season has ended before April 24. What lies in store for the team is anyone’s guess, but a markedly different roster may be among the things to watch for come the 2018-19 season.

Last night’s 99-91 loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the first round sets in motion a summer for the Spurs that may feature several well-known players coming back — or moving on. After the loss, Spurs fan-favorite and former All-Star Manu Ginobili was at the point he was after last season’s loss in the West finals to the Warriors: deciding what to do about his future.

The swingman is under contract for 2018-19, but he said Tuesday night he is weighing what’s next in his career.

“As I’ve done it the last two or three seasons, I’ll sit back, relax and, after two or three months, see if I feel retired or not,” Ginobili said. “I like to let it season a little bit, to see how I feel. Don’t expect news until July, probably. I just don’t know. I let a month, two months go by and see how I feel. I’m not the type of guy who makes decisions on the fly, and when you are upset, hurt or whatever.”

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While the Spurs await Ginobili’s next move, one thing high on the list of priorities for the team is a meeting with injured All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard, writes ESPN’s Michael Wright and the San Antonio Express-News‘ Jabari Young:

An all-hands-on-deck summer meeting with star forward Kawhi Leonard sits high on the priority list for the San Antonio Spurs, according to sources, as the team enters a pivotal offseason in the wake of Tuesday’s 99-91 season-ending loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the Western Conference playoffs.

“Kawhi, everybody asks questions, but he’s still here,” guard Danny Green said. “He’s still locked in. He’s a part of the team until things change.”

With head coach Gregg Popovich expected to take the lead, the Spurs plan to meet with Leonard over the summer to gauge whether the sides can work out their differences and continue what has been largely a positive and productive partnership, sources said.

While the decision regarding whether to offer Leonard a $219 million super-max extension rests with management — and even the current players, according to a source — ownership ultimately makes the final call. Convincing the team’s former chairman and CEO, Peter Holt, and his wife, Julianna Hawn Holt, could prove to be a difficult sell for general manager R.C. Buford. The couple is currently embroiled in divorce proceedings.

Popovich, Buford and Leonard’s Spurs teammates have long maintained the squad wants the star forward back in the fold, but they’ve also all said his long-term health is most important.

Via Twitter, Young reports the following regarding Leonard:

And now the offseason questions will come…before the nonsense starts, #Spurs and Kawhi Leonard will be the topic of discussion. Source tell @ExpressNews he’ll return to San Antonio once Exit Interviews are scheduled and take it from there.

Leonard missed all but nine games this season while nursing right quadriceps tendinopathy, an injury that flared up late in the offseason. He returned to the team’s lineup briefly but did not come back again after complaining of soreness in his injured thigh following the Spurs’ home win over Denver on Jan. 13.

Popovich himself has endured plenty of late, as he has been grieving the death of his wife, Erin, who died last week after a prolonged illness. He did not coach in Games 3, 4 or 5 (Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina handled those duties). Popovich has coached the team since 1997-98 and is the longest-tenured coach in the NBA. He will also be coaching Team USA before the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Then there is point guard Tony Parker, who is a free agent this summer. He said last summer he hoped to make it an even 20 seasons with the Spurs, which would require the team to re-sign him for three years. Parker willingly gave up his starting role to youngster Dejounte Murray this season and remains open to returning to San Antonio.

“We’ll see,” Parker told reporters on Tuesday. “I said already I want to keep playing. I’m happy I don’t have those retirement parties. I want to keep playing, and we’ll see if it’s in San Antonio. Everybody knows I would love to stay here. But free agency is always crazy, so we’ll see.”

Other players, such as Green and veteran swingman Rudy Gay, face contract decisions this summer, writes Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

Elsewhere, Green ($10 million) and Rudy Gay ($8.8 million) will become free agents unless they exercise player options.

Neither player said he had made a decision about whether to opt in.

“Obviously this organization is a big part of me,” said Green, the third-longest tenured Spur behind Parker and Ginobili. “I would love to play here again. Things get interesting in free agency.”

Things seem a little more certain in the Spurs’ frontcourt, where All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge is under contract for three more seasons and is fresh off a standout 2017-18 campaign. Additionally, big man Pau Gasol — who is under contract for two more seasons — made it clear he plans to keep playing, too.

“I have plenty of gas in the tank,” Gasol told reporters after Game 5. “I feel like I can do a lot of good things on the floor and play three years, three, four years. So, that’s what’s on my mind. But, knowing that, I also take it one year at a time. I go step by step and try not to look too much into the future because a lot of factors come into play.

“I feel like I’ve had a pretty good season … very efficient for minutes and opportunities that I’ve been given. Obviously I would like to produce more and have the chance to get on the floor a little bit more so I can be the player that I am, that I have been throughout my career and that I still can be.”

All told, it seems like an offseason like no other awaits the Spurs.

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