Even at the height of their powers, the San Antonio Spurs weren’t usually at the center of the NBA world’s attention. However, the puzzling nature of San Antonio’s decision to release 19-year-old guard Joshua Primo within an hour of game time made the entire league pause. The twelfth overall pick in last year’s draft held a prominent role in the Spurs rotation and was widely considered one of their top young prospects.
Why would an organization that affixed Primo as one of the faces of its youth movement waive him out of the blue? Well, a new report from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne offers a shocking reason for the cut.
Timeline of the release and allegations against Spurs guard Joshua Primo.
At 6:23 p.m. on October 28, shortly before its home game versus the Chicago Bulls, the Spurs organization announced that Primo had been waived. Spurs Sports & Entertainment CEO RC Buford offered the only statement anyone within the organization would make that night:
“It is our hope that, in the long run, this decision will serve the best interest of both the organization and Joshua.”
Spurs beat reporter Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News clarified that head coach Gregg Popovich was late for the team’s media availability session. It was pushed back by a half-hour, and when asked about the decision to release the No. 12 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Popovich said “Have you all gotten the statement we’ve made? That’s all I choose to say about that right now. We are just going to stick with what we told you all.”
Several hours later, the following statement was issued to ESPN on the behalf of Joshua Primo:
“I know that you all are surprised by today’s announcement. I’ve been seeking help to deal with previous trauma I suffered and will not take this time to focus on my mental health treatment more fully. I hope to be able to discuss these issues in the future so I can help others who have suffered in a similar way. I appreciate privacy at this time.”
Although speculation was rampant, Shelburne co-authored a breaking news report with Adrian Wojnarowski on the real reason why the San Antonio Spurs released Joshua Primo.
Joshua Primo was released for allegedly exposing himself to multiple women.
Details from the ESPN report are limited. In fact, there isn’t much more to the story than what’s shared in the headline. It’s unclear when these events took place, how long they had been going on, or what the Spurs knew. However, as Orsborn noted, the Spurs have offered mental health assistance in the form of dedicated staff members since Sept. 2021, so team resources were available to him throughout his tenure in San Antonio.
UPDATE: The Athletic’s Shams Charania has now reported that a former Spurs staff member has accused Joshua Primo of exposing himself to her. Tony Buzbee, the attorney who represented women in the lawsuit against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, has been hired to represent her, Charania continued.
More details are sure to trickle out over time. It’s fully plausible to suggest that legal action may follow, and if a case were to go to trial, evidence would be presented along with statements that would fill in the gaps as to what specifically unfolded.
From a basketball standpoint (the least important aspect of this entire situation, might I add), San Antonio won’t need to adjust all too much. Primo’s role was immediately filled by this year’s 25th pick, Blake Wesley — a lanky combo guard out of Notre Dame. The team carried on to defeat Chicago 129-124 in front of a home crowd that entered the arena dejected from this news.
Primo was a surprise lottery pick during the 2021 NBA Draft. He played in a limited role coming out of Alabama, but his stock quickly rose during the NBA Draft Combine and subsequent workouts. San Antonio invested heavily in his development and made him a focal point of their marketing campaigns. The third year of his contract was picked up just before the season began.
Expect the NBA league offices to conduct a thorough investigation into Primo’s actions and how San Antonio handled its decision-making during the process.
Editor’s Note: I’d like to finish this story by strongly condemning any form of sexual harassment or violations of personal rights — especially from those manipulating others using a position of status or power. Furthermore, using mental health as a means of deflecting blame and personal accountability for one’s actions is terrible behavior.