Over the last two-plus decades, the San Antonio Spurs have never really known what rock bottom feels like. Until now.
On Monday night, the Spurs blew a 23-point lead in a 127-120 loss to the Denver Nuggets for their fifth straight defeat, dropping them to 22-31 on the season and causing them to fall a full five games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Let’s be real here: San Antonio’s streak of 22 consecutive postseason appearances is coming to an end.
To be perfectly blunt, this team stinks, and not even the genius of Gregg Popovich can save it.
DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge have been defensive sieves. Rudy Gay’s production has fallen off a cliff. The young guys have not taken a step forward after last season.
There is very little—if anything—to like about this Spurs club right now, and Tim Duncan isn’t walking through that door to save it (well, not as a player, anyway).
Oddly enough, San Antonio has become the exact type of team that it did its best not to become during its championship years: a team bred on iso ball and poor defensive versatility, one that lacks ball movement nor any sort of consistent offense.
As great as the combination of Popovich and R.C. Buford has been over the years, there is no getting around the fact that the dynamic duo has done a poor job of putting this team together since the retirement of Duncan and the trade of Kawhi Leonard, the latter of which was definitely the final straw.
While many of us expected a slow Spurs death following Duncan’s decision to call it quits, San Antonio has dropped into the abyss at a 90-degree angle since sending Leonard to the Toronto Raptors during the summer of 2018.
The package the Spurs received in return for Leonard was puzzling. DeRozan is the type of player whom you figure would be allergic to Popovich’s system, and while Jakob Poeltl is a decent big, he is certainly not the type of prospect you want headlining a return for arguably the best player in basketball.
Not only that, but San Antonio screwed up the situation with Leonard to begin with. Perhaps if Popovich and the organization did not disrespect Leonard, he would never have asked for a trade.
Of course, that is merely based on conjecture, and it’s not like the tight-lipped Leonard has provided much information on exactly what went down, but it stands to reason that had the Spurs handled Kawhi’s mysterious quad injury with more care, they wouldn’t be in this predicament right now.
Now, San Antonio is reaping the consequences, and my goodness, are they ugly.
This is not something we are used to. The Spurs were always a team that was a lock to win 50 games and make a run at the finals. Duncan. Tony Parker. Manu Ginobili. Whoever else fit into what seemed like a flawless system.
But in 2020? San Antonio is gradually fading into irrelevancy.