Not many folks associated with the San Antonio Spurs in any way – not the front office, the coaches and players, or the fans – have to think long and hard about the last time the team was on this kind of a losing streak. Before Victor Wembanyama got to Texas, head coach Gregg Popovich and the 2022-23 Spurs lost 16 consecutive games between a win against the Brooklyn Nets on January 17, 2023, and a February 28 victory at the Utah Jazz.
It's the worst losing streak in franchise history, surpassing a 13-game skid the team suffered the season before David Robinson arrived in the summer of 1989. This year's version of the Silver and Black just dropped its 14th straight with a 121-106 loss on Saturday at the New Orleans Pelicans.
Hoping to avoid a new record
Last season's historically bad losing streak started with a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers and ended in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The current Spurs stretch started with a loss vs. the Toronto Raptors. Like last season, the Clippers are twice a part of this skid, as are the Sacramento Kings, the Raptors, and the Atlanta Hawks. And like last year, these Spurs are very young. In fact, at 25.52 years of age, they feature the youngest roster in the league.
“Guys are trying to get used to the NBA game. I think we're trying our best and I think every day, we're taking a step, taking a step, taking a step. I think that's the idea we have to have in our head is every day we're getting better,” Spurs forward Julian Champagnie said.
Spurs big man Charles Bassey points to an issue that can go hand in hand with inexperience.
“We're a young group. We're going to have turnovers. We don't go into a game thinking we're going to turn over the ball but we're just playing hard and trying to get a win as quick as we can.”
A key to ending the streak
Losses at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday and to the Chicago Bulls on Friday in San Antonio would tie last season's dubious mark. In hoping not to equal that kind of history, the team has turned into an old Gregg Popovich staple.
“We've got to take it and go with it. That's how it goes. We want to win. Obviously, coming from coach, we all respect him a lot. So when he says we've got to recommit and refocus on defense, that means that we've got to recommit and refocus on defense and there's no way around that,” Julian Champagnie continued, “There's no gray area. It's what he says and that's what we're going to go do.”
“Every practice, we start with defensive drills. We go hard in practice. You can see the losing team will run. Nobody wants to run but that's why we're out here going hard. Running helps to but we emphasize on defense a lot because defense wins games,” Bassey echoed.
The Spurs 3-2 start following a dramatic November 2 win at the Phoenix Suns that featured a dynamic fourth quarter by rookie phenom Victor Wembanyama seems like forever ago. Now 3-16, Champagnie says in order to break the streak, the team needs to turn back the clock a month in order to repeat turning back to last year.
“Focusing on that, dialing in on that, being aggressive, physical; making the mistakes we have to make now so that we can be better in the future.”