With Chip Engelland gone, the Spurs move closer to the unknown

Chip Engelland, capturing guru and long-time Spurs assistant coach, has left the franchise to be part of the Oklahoma City Thunder. His exit would not come as an enormous shock, because it had been reported that he was going to depart after his contract ended, nevertheless it does counsel that there could be extra turbulence in San Antonio than beforehand thought.

First, the optics are horrible. Losing somebody who has been so intertwined with the Spurs’ success in growing gamers as they embark on a full rebuild is tough to defend. Moreover, the move comes as the newest in a mind drain that has been occurring for years in San Antonio and appears to level to a cost-cutting pattern that goes past the norm, even for a Spurs franchise that has at all times been financially aware.

Here’s what we all know. Back in early July, Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer reported that Engelland was going to depart the franchise as soon as his contract ended. The information got here as a little bit of a shock then, however contemplating Engelland has been a Gregg Popovich lieutenant for nearly the entirety of his teaching NBA profession, an exit in the upcoming offseason was at all times probably, since Pop won’t roam the sidelines for for much longer . A breakup brought on by Engelland merely deciding to move on and search for different challenges would have been bittersweet however comprehensible. The motive for his departure as reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, nonetheless, makes issues extra unsavory. Engelland apparently needed to keep badly sufficient to attempt to safe a brand new cope with the Spurs, however the two sides couldn’t come to an settlement. The vital query to ask is why that occurred.

There’s no wage cap for teaching workers, and by all accounts, Engelland is nice at what he does. He’s reportedly one in all the better-paid assistants in the league, however his observe file speaks for itself. From Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard to Keldon Johnson, younger gamers have improved persistently in San Antonio underneath Chip’s steerage. The Spurs lately drafted two high-ceiling prospects in Jeremy Sochan and Blake Wesley who will probably want to enhance their vary to attain their most potential. If Engelland was truly keen to signal a long-term deal to assist them do it, possession ought to have made it occur. The Thunder, who’re solely barely forward of San Antonio’s schedule when it comes to a return to relevance, apparently opened up their pockets to get a aggressive benefit, and going by the studies, it appears honest to infer the Spurs merely weren’t keen to do this

All indicators level to frugality as the driving motive for the breakup, or at the least a laser concentrate on the cash side of issues which has been pervasive lately with the Spurs. Some of the choices, like searching for video games in different cities even when it means giving up the house courtroom benefit, are comprehensible coming from any small-market staff. Reducing payroll and reportedly being hesitant about ultimately having to max out Dejounte Murray is totally defensible from a basketball perspective since the staff is rebuilding. Even letting Engelland depart, by itself, wouldn’t be too worrisome. However, all of these strikes put collectively the image of a franchise that’s making an attempt to cut back spending whereas rising income as a lot as potential even when it comes at the expense of the on-court product. There’s no want to leap to conclusions about the house owners’ dedication to successful in the long run simply but, nevertheless it’s one thing to monitor going ahead.

Beyond any hypothesis about the monetary state of the franchise — which is valued at nearly $2 billion, for what it is value — what Engelland’s departure brings to the forefront is the fixed mind drain that is been occurring with the teaching workers in San Antonio. The flip aspect of the Pop teaching tree extending as vastly because it does is that individuals hold branching out away from the Spurs. Engelland joins Becky Hammon, Will Hardy, Ime Udoka, Ettore Messina and James Borrego in the record of former Spurs coaches who’ve joined different groups in simply the previous 5 years. Engelland was by no means probably to fill the massive chair on the bench, and Brett Brown’s return does shore up the “company data” deficit the fixed workers turnover has created, however it’s clearly changing into more and more awkward to stability the timelines of the rebuild and the finish of Gregg Popovich’s profession.

The entrance workplace appears to be strolling a tightrope between making an attempt to respect the previous guard and constructing one thing of its personal. Getting rid of Popovich is rightfully off the desk, so they’re tinkering with the roster and the remainder of the workers for now, however might that change quickly? Going by latest choices, it could nonetheless be too daring to say that they’re nudging him in the direction of retirement, however they do appear to be not-so-subtly signaling that they need to proceed to move in the direction of a full reset at their very own tempo. The hope is {that a} stability shall be discovered that permits Pop to assist with the transition earlier than transferring on, however his contract will expire subsequent summer time. Will there be awkwardness in the negotiations between the events brought on by both a reluctance to spend or a want to shake issues up, identical to there seemingly was with Engelland?

The incontrovertible fact that this state of affairs is even conceivable is stunning, however perhaps it should not be. These aren’t the previous Spurs. The Big Three is gone. So are Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and even Dejounte Murray. There is a special Holt at the prime, RC Buford shouldn’t be the common supervisor anymore, and now Chip Engelland is out.

After refusing to move on from an period of unmatched success at a gentle tempo, the Spurs have seemingly began sprinting in the direction of the future, for higher or worse. Hopefully they do not confuse movement with course.

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