The NBA’s extension deadline came and went on Monday without players like Rodney Hood, Marcus Smart, Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton and Jabari Parker, among others, receiving new deals.
But LaMarcus Aldridge got his.
Yes, the San Antonio Spurs reached a three-year extension with their at-times unhappy power forward, according to ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
The extension will keep Aldridge, 32, under contract with the Spurs through the 2020-21 season. It includes a partially guaranteed salary in the deal’s final season, league sources told ESPN. Only $7 million is guaranteed in the final year of the extension, league sources told ESPN’s Zach Lowe.
San Antonio did discuss trade scenarios with teams centered on Aldridge prior to the draft and during the summer but never found an offer that intrigued them enough to make a deal, league sources said.
At times, Aldridge hasn’t been happy with the franchise, and the franchise hasn’t been happy with him. Nevertheless, Aldridge arrived in training camp in strong shape and with a better relationship with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, and both sides understand that the uncertainty of free agency next summer could make an extension a wise option.
So. Much. Weird.
Aldridge has hardly been a beacon of happiness or consistency since arriving in San Antonio. That the Spurs are reinvesting him now suggests he and head coach Gregg Popovich have hammered things out and are sold on a long-term marriage. Well that, or the Spurs just have no intention of getting in on the LeBron James sweepstakes next summer after giving Pau Gasol a three-year, $48 million pack, which sports a similar partial guarantee in its third year.
And maybe that’s what this is actually about: trade bait.
Both Aldridge and Gasol will be mighty fine assets entering the final seasons of their deals. Sure, they’ll be ancient, but teams will be able to send back heavy salaries to the Spurs while only eating around $7 million in waived paydays for either big.
The Spurs could also be comfortable running with this infrastructure for another two years. Then, as Kawhi Leonard is entering the heart of his new deal, they could punt on the final year of these contracts for additional cap flexibility or be prepared to reinvent the roster in 2021, when Aldridge’s extension washes off the books.
Whatever the Spurs have in mind, we have no choice other than to trust them. The timing of this extension is weird, but they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt.