SAN ANTONIO — The split between the Spurs and Dejounte Murray seemed amicable, at least at first.
When San Antonio dealt their All Star point guard to Atlanta, it was sad for the fans and for the organization, but both the team and the player got a positive outcome. The Spurs chose a direction and got a haul of picks for their rebuild, and Murray got sent to a team that has a better chance of winning in the immediate future.
Many questions remain unanswered. Would the Spurs have offered Murray a max contract in a couple of years? Even if they did, would he have wanted to stay? Did he request a trade? None of that is clear at the moment.
What is becoming more clear now, however, is that the breakup between the two was not as clean as both parties let on as it happened. A few weeks after the trade, Murray responded to an angry Spurs fan with particularly harsh words about his former team.
"The Way That System Set Up You Gone Be Losing For The Next 15 Yrs!!! Problem Bigger Than Basketball," he said in an Instagram comment.
For some context here, Murray had initially posted a farewell message to the Spurs and their fans.
"SAN ANTONIO I LOVE YOU FOREVER..... 🖤 Thank You @spurs And The Whole City For Believing In Me And Embracing Me From DAY ONE. I Want To Write A Whole Book But It’s Not Easy. We Are Family And Its Always Going To Be Bigger Than Basketball!!!"
The comments largely reciprocated that love. Most fans wished him well and/or expressed sadness at his departure, all perfectly appropriate. Some, however, expressed anger and decided to try to antagonize him.
The comment he was responding to read, "BYE! 😂 fly little birdy... Good luck getting to the 2nd round at least we got the picks and we're building around Keldon."
First of all, using social media to tag and attack an athlete is becoming far too common. At the end of the day, Murray is a human being who changed employers, and his job is to put a ball through a hoop.
The passion of sports fans is valid and important, but with everything else that's going on in the world, we shouldn't endorse genuine anger being directed at adults who play a children's game for our entertainment unless they've done something truly awful in real life.
Gregg Popovich will be the first to tell you that basketball is pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things; in fact, that's almost a direct quote.
Over the last six years, Murray was as famous for tweeting and deleting as he was for Capitalizing Every Word In The Sentence Like This. Many reporters, including this one, got in the habit of screenshotting anything he'd put out, in anticipation of seeing "Tweets not loading right now."
Murray could have ignored this fan, or he could have responded just to one person. Instead, he dragged the organization that drafted him and blew up the illusion that he had no negative feelings toward the team.
For the diehard Spurs fans, especially the ones who still have a ton of respect for DJ, this was really tough to see. It caused more hurt feelings. Murray later made it clear that his beef is with the team, not the fans.
"You Have No Clue How Deeply I Love The Fans And Will Do Whatever For The Real Fans... Me Saying What I Said Had Nothing To Do With The Fans!!! All That Inside Sh*+ Fake Though!!!!!!! FRFR," he said in a subsequent Instagram comment.
The fans who didn't like him while he was here have even more reason to be upset with him. Some of the fans who supported him as a Spur may have a different opinion of him now.
For many, it reopens the not-so-old wound of the Kawhi Leonard debacle. There are clear differences, namely that one player tweeted exactly four times and the other probably tweets a bit too much.
Kawhi didn't want to be in San Antonio anymore, primarily because he wanted to go back home to LA. In contrast, we don't know why the relationship between Murray and the Spurs broke down.
Kawhi put the team in a tough position by publicly forcing his way out while still under contract. Murray kept his feelings private until he was already dealt.
People may critique what Murray said and how he said it, but it does raise the questions: What did the company do to make him that mad? What problem bigger than basketball is he talking about?
We now know that something went wrong in his relationship with the team. We may never know exactly what went down unless DJ decides to spill some more tea, which he very well may.
Given that he said 15 years, he probably isn't talking about Gregg Popovich, with whom he has had a close relationship for his entire time in the NBA.
Whatever happened happened. Dejounte Murray is now an Atlanta Hawk, the San Antonio Spurs are now a rebuilding team in the truest sense, and it's clear now that somewhere along the line there was a breakdown in the relationship between the two.
If you're a fan of both parties involved, it hurts. But this whole episode are a lesson that hurt feelings shouldn't lead to angry posts on social media.