In a completely unexpected move, the San Antonio Spurs announced that they waived Josh Primo. Primo was their prized 2021 first round pick after being drafted with the 12th overall pick. It was a jarring development by all accounts as Primo was one of the young faces of the Spurs organization this season and a big part of Gregg Popovich’s rotation.
So what happened? The Spurs organization isn’t talking and Primo’s statement to ESPN didn’t shed any light on the situation other than saying that he was going to take some time away from basketball to seek treatment for his mental health and “to deal with previous trauma he’s suffered.”
Josh Primo statement to ESPN in the aftermath of his release from the Spurs tonight: pic.twitter.com/H1n3k3IIcn
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 29, 2022
Less than 24 hours after the Spurs waived Primo, no one knows what’s going on. No NBA insider. Not Woj. Not Shams. It seems like no one outside of Primo, Primo’s close friends and family and the San Antonio Spurs organizations know for sure the reasons why the two separated the way they did and they’re not talking. Popovich recently declined to comment.
9 Facts That Tells Us Something Bigger Happened
Whatever has happened, we’ve seen a lot of Twitter users calling out the San Antonio organization for waiving someone going through mental health issues. That’s completely unfair to the Spurs because 1) they have a reputation as a great NBA organization 2) whatever you think of Gregg Popovich, he’s a thoughtful, caring coach and 3) there’s a lot more color and detail to this story that hasn’t come out.
From what we’ve seen, there’s something crazy that happened between Primo and the Spurs. Here’s 9 things we gleaned from our Twitter timeline that tells us that there was something big happened behind the scenes and there’s a much bigger, dramatic story that forced the Spurs to essentially release Josh Primo with haste.
1. Josh Primo is Just 19 Years Old
It’s not unusual for younger players to have a hard time adjusting to the NBA and Primo isn’t the first, nor the last, talented prospect to struggle on-court and/or off the court. That said, teams are very willing to be patient to work and develop younger players, so the fact that the Spurs decided to waive Primo says something happened that’s much more serious than the typical temper tantrum, poor attitude or blow up at practice. Not sure what that is, but it had to be something out of the ordinary.
2. No Team Waives a Talented Prospect With Trade Value
Speaking strictly from a business perspective, no NBA franchise is simply going to release a young player that has some trade value on the market, and their ability to win basketball games that should win. That’s especially true for a team that isn’t in contention like the Spurs. The fact that San Antonio waived Primo this quickly – and wasn’t willing to test the market – tells us that it wasn’t worth waiting.
3. Primo Is Still Owed Money
By waiving Primo, San Antonio is now going to have to eat the money left on his rookie contract. This means the Spurs will lose $4.1M this season and $4.3M the next season – likely without any return. Any NBA team can afford that, but again that’s not how NBA business typically works. And this is why this situation is very unusual.
San Antonio will eat $4.1M this season and $4.3M next season by waiving Joshua Primo.
If Primo is claimed off waivers, that money will come off the Spurs books.
A team would need to have cap space or a traded player exception large enough to claim Primo’s $4.1M salary this year.
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) October 28, 2022
4. The Spurs Just Extended Primo
On top of the fact that Primo is only 19 years old and still on his rookie contract (which is REALLY affordable), the Spurs just recently exercised the team option of Primo’s rookie contract. That action taken by the Spurs extended the Primo-San Antonio relationship to at least until 2023-24. They exercised that team option earlier this month – just over two weeks ago.
5. Primo Played 24 Minutes on Monday
In the Spurs win against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, Primo logged 24 minutes and scored 10 points on 3-5 from the field, had 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Twenty-four minutes is not an insignificant amount of playing time and certainly not garbage time. Primo would sit out their next game on Wednesday, the game before the waiving.
6. San Antonio Has Invested Heavily in Primo
According to this tweet from NicYarbro, Primo had been called the Spurs’ franchise player by PATFO (Popovich And The Front Office), had a sponsorship partner with SELF Financial, and is on billboards all over San Antonio.
Josh Primo was being hailed by PATFO as a franchise player. He was the face of the new “SELF” marketing partnership. He’s on billboards in SA. 2 weeks ago his 3rd year option was exercised. Something extremely abhorrent must have happened behind the scenes and RECENTLY.
— Nic (@NicYarbro) October 28, 2022
7. The Spurs Erased Primo FAST
Another reason why we know something crazy must have happened is that the organization wasted no time in removing all of Primo’s #11 jerseys, shirts and other items from their team shop where the jersey existed just yesterday (see screenshot from Google cache as it appeared on Oct 28, 2022 04:29:19 GMT). And no gear with Primo’s name on it can be found on the Fanatics site.
8. This is a Highly-Unusual and Unprecedented Move
Lots of NBA insiders that have covered the NBA over the years have have called the waiving of Primo “stunning” by for The Athletic’s Senior NBA Insider Shams Charania, “odd” by Marc Stein and “jarring and unprecedented“ from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Josh Primo was the youngest player in the 2021 NBA Draft when selected 12th to the Spurs. His on-court development absolutely had the organization excited about his NBA future. Waiving Primo so abruptly without explanation is fairly unprecedented — and jarring.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 28, 2022
9. Spurs Have History Supporting Players’ Mental Health
When we talk about the NBA and mental health advcates, two players come to mind: Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan. These two NBA all-stars have come out to talk about their everyday struggles with mental health – not to mention the unique challenges that face them as professional athletes. DeRozan, who just scored his 20,000th career point, has said how much the organization and Coach Pop have helped him grow, not just on the court, but off it.
“I learned so much. A place that embraced me, wasn’t nothing but love.” DeRozan recently said about San Antonio and Coach Pop. “it was definitely a learning curve for me in my career at a critical time in my career — and Pop really helped me a lot in my career.”
“(DeRozan is) a beautiful, wonderful human being.” responded Popovich. “One of the best that I’ve ever coached. I still stay in touch with him. He’s just a sweet man.”
Outside of the fact that the Spurs franchise and coach Popovich have built a culture of respect and caring for everyone in the organization including the players, there are a lot of little signs and flags that says that this is way bigger than what’s been presented. As you can see from the above little details we were able to collate. We’re certain more details will come out in the next few days and we’ll update this post as we come across more information.