Boban Marjanovic wanted to re-sign with the San Antonio Spurs in free agency, since he is a sensible man who likes winning games and working under Gregg Popovich. The coach, though, told Marjanovic that he'd be silly to turn down all the money the Detroit Pistons were willing to pay him.
"He's such a good kid, at some point I had to work to get him to understand that $21 million was different than $3 million," Popovich said. "I said, 'Get your ass out of here. Go. You've got to do it.' But he felt bad."
"We knew he was gone," Popovich said. "It happens to every team. You lose a guy because you have to pay people and you can't pay them all."
After some reluctance at leaving his first NBA home, Marjanovic is settling in with Detroit.
"My first wish was to stay," Marjanovic said. "But this is good now. I think I made a good decision."
The 7-foot-3 Marjanovic averaged only 9.4 minutes with the Spurs last year, but he was a rookie playing behind big men Tim Duncan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Boris Diaw and David West. In those minutes, he shot 60 percent of the field, with per-36 minutes number that would make him an All-Star if he sustained them: 21 points, 13.7 rebounds 1.5 assist, 1.6 blocks and 0.9 steals.
Since he is enormous and slow-footed, it seems unlikely that Marjanovic could actually handle 30-plus minutes of playing time on a regular basis. He can also be a liability on defense, especially when trying to contain pick-and-rolls. It was obvious, though, that some team was going to give him a significant raise. San Antonio could not do so -- it had to shed salary in order to sign Pau Gasol -- and ended up replacing him with Dewayne Dedmon on a two-year, $6 million deal.
The question now is whether or not Marjanovic will be able to show what he can do in Detroit. Before a recent preseason game, Pistons president and coach Stan Van Gundy said that they signed Marjanovic in part because they anticipated losing center Aron Baynes, another ex-Spur, in free agency next summer.
Marjanovic, then, is once again a third-string center until next season unless something changes. But it's better to be a third-string center making $7 million per year than a third-string center making $3 million per year. Popovich is rarely wrong.