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Spurs 2016: It’s all about human resources

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Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili face off against the Clippers. Photo courtesy NBA.

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(July 22, 2015) -- It’s hard to look at the Spurs’ locker room as any old office, but just as the team’s higher-ups rightly look at the franchise as a business, the players themselves follow the same general concepts of office living. Just in the past few weeks, Matt Bonner, Kawhi Leonard and (after much speculation) Manu Ginobili have signed with the Spurs for another season, and Trail Blazers’ star player LaMarcus Aldridge announced he’d be joining the team. UTSA Department of Management Professor Mark Lengnick-Hall says that how this shakes out next season is mostly a matter of human resources.

“The whole process of getting the team ready for 2016 is about human resource management,” he said. “It’s looking at how these people measure up to their responsibilities and how they fit in with each other.”

According to Lengnick-Hall, Manu, despite his age, is a great example of Person-Job Fit, wherein someone’s knowledge and skills fit well with the requirements of the job.

“Manu often plays as a guard,” he said. “A guard needs good dribbling skills, coordination and peripheral vision. That’s why he can do those amazing passes.”

Putting a bunch of great players together does not a great team make, though. Lengnick-Hall pointed to the recent departures of centers Aron Baynes and Tiago Splitter, both very tall players, who were more or less replaced by LaMarcus Aldridge, a power forward like Tim Duncan.

“Can having two power forwards offset the weakness of giving up two competent centers?” Lengnick-Hall asked.

The key, he said, is that just like in an office, everyone has a role to play. This plays into the Spurs’ unofficial religion of selfless play, but also reflects that, like any office, employees work best when they work well together.

“Aldridge is the new guy,” Lengnick-Hall said. “He was the big man on campus back in Portland, and it’s going to be interesting to see if he can adapt to not being the star of the show.”

How Aldridge adapts will demonstrate his Person-Group Fit, meaning how well he’ll mesh with the rest of the team.

“When you’re in a job interview,” Lengnick-Hall said, “You’re thinking about making a transition and the group of people you’d be working with. The employer wants somebody who’s a good fit with everybody there.”

If someone doesn’t mesh, eventually they’ll find their way out, one way or another. The UTSA professor said he thinks Aldridge will fit in, based on the concept of supplementary fit, meaning he’s filling a space that Tim Duncan already fills, but is bringing along similar values and goals.

As for the re-signing of Ginobili, Bonner and Leonard: they’re all smart business decisions, Lengnick-Hall said, because they all fill a specific need. Bonner fills the need for a 3-point shooter. Leonard is frequently touted as the future of the Spurs, and when Cleveland comes to town is always set forward as San Antonio’s answer to LeBron James.

“You wouldn’t want to bring in all tall guys like Aldridge, because the ball would never go anywhere, and that’s why Manu is important,” he said. “He’s got that set of skills, and even though he’s older and not as quick as he once was, he’s got tremendous experience. When he’s on, everyone plays better.”

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