Over the last 30+ years, the San Antonio Spurs have managed to become not only one of the most successful teams in the NBA but also one of the most respected. Unfortunately, that’s changed. The Spurs are one of the worst teams in the NBA this season, and their sterling reputation has taken several trips through the mud.
The Spurs have had several high-profile players bash them in recent years, including former all-star Dejounte Murray. While criticism from notable former NBA players such as Robert Horry and Stephen Jackson stings, Murray’s criticism is far more concerning. He recently appeared on the Up in Smoke podcast and echoed a lot of what co-host Jackson has said in the past.
Players talk and that’s a problem for the Spurs.
While Spurs fans, myself included, might shrug it off or dismiss his complaints, other players have probably taken notice. Players talk, after all, and while the Spurs are respected as an organization, there may be a negative perception among current players about playing in San Antonio. Considering the Spurs aren’t a free-agent destination, that may not hurt the Spurs as much as it would another team, but it’s not exactly a good thing either.
Another thing to consider is that superstar Kawhi Leonard went from being the next face of the franchise to being rumored to be willing to sit out an entire season in an attempt to get traded. He ultimately was, but not to his destination of choice, but instead to Toronto. He got the last laugh, however, by winning a championship there before forming a super team in Los Angeles with the Clippers.
And although Leonard never publicly criticized the Spurs, he may have done so behind the scenes. Even if he hasn’t, then other players surely have speculated about what really happened. Moreover, Murray, who was a teammate of Leonard, hinted that he was holding back a lot more about his time with the organization than he shared on the podcast.
Worse yet, the team’s potentially bad reputation among players could actually affect the Spurs’ ability to draft. With the Spurs likely to be a lottery team for the next few seasons, and top prospects having more say in where they go, some could try to steer clear of the team. Sounds crazy, right? Well, that happens in some form with each draft.
There could be consequences for San Antonio’s perceived mistreatment of players.
How does that happen? A top prospect could simply decline to work out with or even meet with a team that he doesn’t want to go to, discouraging them from drafting him. LaMelo Ball was accused of this by allegedly tanking interviews to try and have some say in the process. Other players could theoretically do the same or do things like withholding medical records.
Agents can have a lot of say in the draft and free agent processes, and that can help the Spurs given that they don’t appear to have any negative relationships with them. Then again, what happens if, say, the Spurs end up with the second pick and Scoot Henderson declines to meet with the Spurs? Or, maybe he tanks his interview and/or workout based partly on bad word of mouth?
Admittedly, that’s probably jumping the gun, but Murray was so upset about his treatment that he even asked his agent for a trade during his rookie season. While he eventually developed into an All-Star point guard with the help of the team, any prospect or free agent would be justified in being concerned.
All in all, Murray’s recent comments might have a bigger impact than many expect. After all, it fits an existing narrative, and he is the biggest name to speak out. Time will tell if anything comes of this, but the Spurs are already a small market team that’s in a prolonged rebuild; they don’t need another thing working against them.