Leave it up to Greg Oden to hold up the deal between Aron Baynes and the San Antonio Spurs.
Alright, now that may be a very far fetched conclusion to jump to even as the Spurs entertain thoughts of signing Oden -- who has not played in the NBA since December 2009 and after undergoing five various surgeries on his knees since the Portland Trail Blazers made him the first overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft -- but it's equally easy to draw such parallels.
The Spurs want to sign a center. The interest in Oden is reportedly there. And while the "Baynes to sign with San Antonio" headlines have been floating about since Wednesday, the deal remains up in the air. As for now, the expected 3.5 year (team options for the last two years) deal that includes a buyout estimated at $400,000 is as mysterious as the Spurs even courting the 6-foot-10, 260 pound center to begin with.
It's not that Baynes' overseas resume with Union Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia and the Australian National team is in question here. It's more about sitting around and watching a team like the Miami Heat struggle mightily to find the right fit in signing a center for over the last two seasons, and then reading about the Spurs swooping in to grab yet another European rooted player on the rise.
This isn't a knock on Baynes. Far from it. But if or when the final details of the agreement become finalized between Baynes and the Spurs, then front offices around the league (and even overseas for that matter) have no choice but to once again stand up and applaud the San Antonio for getting the job done in regards to both scouting, recruiting and not breaking the bank to find another piece to their puzzle.
Here's what we know about Baynes: he's having a solid season in Slovenia and the established relationships he has with the Spurs are rooted in the Australian National team.
Baynes has been playing this season in Slovenia for Olimpija, where he averaged 12.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in Adriatic League and 13.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game in the Euroleague. In Baynes' last game for Union Olimpija Ljubljana, he finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 blocks against second ranked Zvezda. He currently ranks sixth in the league in rebounds and fourth in blocks per game. And that is really the main aspect that's stood out about Baynes' game and which eventually sold the Spurs on the big man -- rebounding.
"I can't be satisfied with where I'm at. I have to stay focused on getting better," Baynes said last month.
The 26-year old led the Euroleague in rebounding per 36 minutes in the first 10 games of the season for Olimpija by averaging 13.5 rebounds per game. Not only does he work both ends of the glass (Baynes averaged 5.4 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes in the Euroleague), but he plays his man (boxing out) before playing the ball. The other side of the argument pertains to the adjustment period Baynes will face making the move from Europe to the NBA. The game faster and more physical, but playing sound defense is constantly preached particularly in San Antonio. While Baynes has shown to play smart and playing within himself Gregg Popovich is known for riding first time players who make the move from overseas to the NBA and this time likely will be no different.
After going undrafted out of Washington State in 2009, Baynes has played overseas in Lithuania (Lietuvos Rytas), Germany (Oldenburg), Greece (Ikaros Kallitheas B.C.) and Slovenia, while also playing alongside Spurs' point guard Patty Mills on the Australian National team since 2010.
Brett Brown, an assistant coach with the Spurs, is also the former Australian National team coach, so the connections between Baynes and San Antonio these days is thanks in large part to Brown recognizing the talent he coached and understanding how the Spurs could benefit from Baynes' ability.
"Every NBA club would know who he is and obviously Brown had a belief and saw something in Aron," Australian basketball legend Andrew Gaze recently explained of Brown and Baynes' relationship.
"He has that size, athleticism and competitive instinct. You see it in every Australian that does well in the United States, that they have that (mongrel) about them and Aron is no different.
"He doesn't back down from anyone."
Baynes also brings championship experience to the floor. Not only did Baynes compete at the 2010 World Championships, but he won a 2010 Lithuanian National Championship as well and regardless if a title comes in the NBA or overseas, the underlying belief holds true.
But how good can Baynes really be for San Antonio?
What role will he play with the Spurs -- coming off of the bench playing spot minutes or that of a project who will see his fair share of time in the D-League?
The answers may come slow, but even Aron Baynes knows waiting is part of the process.