The Spurs are currently tied with Golden State for the 8th best record in the West. But unlike Denver's trade for Billups, which appears to have greatly helped the Nuggets, I don't see this one affecting the standings. At least, it won't prevent the Spurs from making a move up. If Manu returns as early as next Monday, the Spurs will finish somewhere between 3 and 5, with little regard for Golden State.
As reported, the Warriors will get back Jamal Crawford in the deal, allowing their small ball freak show to, paraphrasing Bethlehem Shoals, get even more psychedelic. Some nights the Warriors are fun to watch, and on others they're like a bad acid trip flash back. Once healthy, I expect a line up of Ellis, Morrow, Crawford, Capt. Jack and Biedrins for longer stretches than anyone thinks possible.
In head to head match ups, this won't matter. The Spurs get back on defense and can play small. They'll still pound the Warriors, taunting the Mavericks all the while. And I suspect it means even less in the conference race, unless the Warriors replace Ellis with Crawford, trading Monta for someone valuable. If that happens, we'll reevaluate the situation.
The bigger story here is that NY continues to decrease payroll. Donnie Walsh is doing well. As I wrote earlier today, the Spurs are 2010 hopefuls. While no one thinks their small market status will appeal to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, they are a legit contenders for nearly everyone else available that summer. My concern is that James or Wade will spurn the Knicks and set off a chain reaction that places San Antonio in a position of weakness. In other words, what happens if Walsh has cash to spend on the same players Pop and Buford are hoping to land?
As a small market team, the Spurs are already at a disadvantage. What they have over most of the league, and should still have in 2010, is a claim to true contention and a championship cast. If pedigree is currency, then they're rich. But such pedigree can get lost in the bright lights of Broadway.
Speaking of those Broadway lights, I'd be surprised if David Lee lasts in NY. Despite the opinion of others, he's not a 7 seconds or less guy. Even more crucially, the money he'll demand in free agency isn't conducive to Walsh's pursuit of LeBron. If Darko Milicic is the human victory cigar, then Lee, at least for part of this season, is the cherry atop the Eddy Curry sundae.