SAN ANTONIO - Unable to complete a deal with athletic wingman Jonathon Simmons, the Spurs on Thursday renounced their rights to the former D-League player, according to multiple sources.
The Vertical was the first media outlet to report that the Spurs and Simmons had broken off contract talks.
The unexpected move Thursday makes Simmons, 27, an unrestricted free agent. The Spurs rescinded their $1.6 million qualifying offer to Simmons, a guard/forward who has played the past two seasons with San Antonio.
Simmons' pro career has been a testament to his perseverance and grit. After completing his college career in 2012 at the University of Houston, he paid $150 for a tryout with the Austin Toros, the Spurs' D-League team, a year later. He earned a roster spot and played well enough to eventually sign a contract with the Silver and Black in 2015.
"Not many of us paid 100 bucks (actually, $150) and ended up kind of like in a miracle the way he has," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after the season this year.
Formerly a restricted free agent, Simmons is now free to negotiate with any other NBA team. Thursday was the final day that NBA teams could pull qualifying offers from restricted free agents.
There were reports Thursday that the Spurs were still engaged in talks with Simmons' representatives, but other sources said he will continue to consider offers from other teams. San Antonio did not offer Simmons its mid-level exception, which would give him a starting salary of roughly $8.4 million for the 2017-18 season.
Simmons played in 78 games last season, averaging 6.2 points, 2.1 rebounds and 17.8 minutes. He stepped up his game in the playoffs, averaging 10.5 points and 20.4 minutes.
With Kawhi Leonard injured, Simmons started the last three games of the Western Conference Finals against Golden State and was arguably the Spurs' best player in the series. He averaged 15.3 points and 3.3 assists, and also drew praise from Popovich for his defense.
Simmons, 6-foot-6, had a playoff career-high 22 points and added three rebounds and three assists in Game 2 against the Warriors.
"Jon was one of the very few (Spurs) who came to play," Popovich said after Game 2. "I thought Jon was great at both ends of the floor. He was intense and he played to win."
Popovich spoke highly of Simmons when he met with the media on the day after Golden State completed a sweep of the Spurs.
"To see the progress he's made is thrilling for us as a staff," Popovich said. "Really happy for him because he's going to have an NBA career now. He's going to have a future in the NBA. He came along at both ends of the court, and started to figure out what professionalism is and what it takes to be a consistent player."
If Simmons signs with another team, he will be the second player the Spurs have lost to free agency this offseason. Backup center Dewayne Dedmon came to terms on a two-year deal with Atlanta on Tuesday.
Two other Spurs big men, Pau Gasol and David Lee, also opted out of the final year of their contracts after the season. Lee has drawn interest from other teams, but Gasol is expected to return to San Antonio after declining his $16.2 million option to free up salary-cap space for the Spurs. Gasol reportedly opted out of his contract to seek a long-term deal with San Antonio.
The Spurs are also waiting to hear back from veteran guard Manu Ginobili, who is expected to announce this month whether he’ll return for his 16th season with San Antonio or retire.
The Silver and Black have signed two players this offseason, forward Rudy Gay and center/forward Joffrey Lauvergne. Gay and Lauvergne became unrestricted free agents after they opted out of the final year of their contracts with Sacramento and Chicago, respectively.
The Silver and Black went 61-21 and reached the Western Conference Finals last season, their first in 20 years without iconic power forward Tim Duncan, who retired last July.
San Antonio beat Memphis and Houston in the first two rounds of the playoffs before getting swept by Golden State, which went on to win its second NBA championship in three seasons.
"I thought we had a great season," Popovich said in his postseason session with the media. "Really happy for the group. There's only one happy team out of 30 at the end of the day. Everybody else is sad at some point.
"But if you have half a brain and put things in perspective, for the first year without Timmy's leadership and a lot of new players, these guys got it together to win 61 games, and just got better and better as the playoffs proceeded and were basically on a pretty good roll starting Game 1 against Golden State. Some bad fortune, which happens to all of us at some point in our lives, and we don't get to be the last team standing. But when I think of what they accomplished, they deserve a lot of credit."
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