MANILA, Philippines – For 22 straight years, the San Antonio Spurs have clinched a playoff spot in the NBA’s historically tough Western Conference and have set the standard for consistent basketball excellence.
In that time span, the Spurs drafted and honed superstars who helped them win 5 titles across 3 decades under the guidance of legendary head coach Gregg Popovich.
Even in the latter years of their dominance, the franchise defied those who prophesied the end of their era by continuing to compete until the tail end of the 2010s.
However, at the turn of the new decade, it now seems awfully apparent that the end has indeed arrived, and no invite to Disney World Orlando will likely change that.
Current roster composition
Even at full strength, the Spurs hardly generated much buzz in a conference loaded with the league’s best superstars such as LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Luka Doncic and former Spurs Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.
Led by mid-range snipers LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio was practically forced to use plays that veered away from the three-point shot to accommodate their star players.
The rest of the fluid starting lineup is also rounded out with more non-shooters like Jakob Poeltl, Trey Lyles and Dejountae Murray.
Although the loaded backcourt boasts some long-range firepower like Derrick White, Bryn Forbes and Patty Mills, it’s just not enough to save the Spurs from being left behind by more modern, star-studded offenses.
Worst of all, Aldridge, who is the team’s second-leading scorer with an 18.9 points per game average, was just recently ruled out for the rest of the season after having right shoulder surgery.
Unless DeRozan finds a higher gear once the season resumes in Orlando, Aldridge’s injury may just have been the final nail in the Spurs’ coffin.
Even with Aldridge in the lineup, the Spurs had been plummeting in the standings and are currently 12th in the West with a losing record of 27-36.
To put that number in perspective, the Spurs already clinched their worst record in the 22-year Popovich era after just 63 games.
In fact, the last time San Antonio had a losing record was in the 1997-1998 season, when a 37-year-old Dominique Wilkins led them to a 20-62 slate that awarded them the first overall pick. That pick turned into Duncan, and the rest is history.
Yes, one can never count out the coaching magic of Popovich, but at this point, coaching alone may just not be enough anymore to save their season.
The Spurs have had a legendary run. They already own the longest playoff streak in major American sports history with titles to show for it. They have nothing else to prove.