San Antonio Spurs: The end of an era here, but there is hope for the future

NBA San Antonio Spurs Bryn Forbes, DeMar DeRozan, and Patty Mills (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
NBA San Antonio Spurs Bryn Forbes, DeMar DeRozan, and Patty Mills (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

The end of an era for the San Antonio Spurs might be upon us, but there is still hope for the future

It might finally be the end of the line for the San Antonio Spurs dynasty.

Currently holding the NBA’s longest streak of consecutive playoff appearances, the Spurs are outside the top eight in the West and risk putting an end to their 22-year run. As the season draws to a close, the Spurs are currently sitting in 11th place and losing ground quickly after losing eight of their last 11 games.

San Antonio finds themselves looking down the barrel of an already-smoking gun; a team built around a core than cannot keep up in today’s NBA. The addition of DeMar DeRozan in 2018 paired him alongside LaMarcus Aldridge, both clinical assassins from the mid-range in their primes, have seen the league evolve around them. With both excelling from inside the arc, neither of their two main options on offense can consistently produce from 3-point territory.

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This season further exposed the Spurs problems from deep, with the team only shooting 31.8 percent of their shots from beyond the arc, second-fewest in the NBA. For reference, the Houston Rockets produce nearly half (48.7 percent) of their offense from 3.

While fingers can easily be pointed in the direction of Aldridge and DeRozan, the problems surrounding have not helped the situation. The Spurs have been plagued with injury trouble over the past two seasons since DeRozan’s arrival, seeing Rudy Gay, Dejounte Murray and Derrick White all missed time this season. And that without mentioning the list of Aldridge’s injuries.

Although injuries cannot be solely responsible for the Spurs trouble, they definitely played a factor in their slip to the 11th seed in the West.

In regards to coaching, another big question mark hangs over this team. The great Gregg Popovich still reigns supreme in the San Antonio locker room, but his time, too, may be winding down.

Since Popovich first took over the team midway through the 1996-97 season, a culture of humility was put in place, with team success being valued far beyond individual accolades. Finding players who not only can grow their own game but grow the games of those around them was a major focal point in their drafting process and was embodied by the Spurs’ first overall draft pick in 1997; Tim Duncan.

After that, the rest was history. San Antonio broke into the playoff picture in 1998 and never looked back. As of 2019, it still stands as the longest active playoff streak in any of the big four North American sports leagues.

Over that stretch, Pop has watched NBA players turn into legends, seeing the careers of greats such as Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker evolve in front of him. Parker’s retirement last season made him the last member of the trio to finally hang up the shoes but does bring up the question; how much more Popovich has left in the tank?

However, there is potential over the horizon in San Antonio.

Current assistant coach Becky Hammon provides an interesting option for the team if this season does result in a changing of the guard. Hammon boasts an impressive list of accomplishments in a short span of coaching in the NBA, including winning the NBA Summer League title in 2015 and being the right-hand woman to Popovich since 2014.

This guidance from arguably the greatest coach of all time paired with her 15 years of experience as a WNBA point guard gives Hammon an edge over other coaching candidates if Popovich calls it a career. All of this, along with her familiarity with the team and their systems could persuade the Spurs to choose to her; simultaneously becoming the first female head coach in NBA history.

Aside from the proven vets on the team, there is a considerable amount of backcourt talent that brings promise to the future core of the Spurs. The quartet of young guards consisting of Patty Mills, Dejounte Murray, Bryn Forbes, and Derrick White provide depth for this squad going forward.

Each of the guards is averaging over 10 points per game and shooting over 35 percent from 3-point range, and with further development and more minutes in a system where they are the focal point, the combination could prove to be a nightmare for opposing teams.

Ultimately, the state of the current San Antonio Spurs and Gregg Popovich delicately hinge on one another. If Popovich retires, look for the Spurs to rebuild. If the Spurs start the teardown of the team, Popovich’s exit would surely follow.

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Looking back, the remarkable 22-year run is a record that will most likely stand far into the future and solidify Pop as one of the all-time greats.  Whether the dynasty ends this year or not, the Spurs are and always will be the team remembered for dominating the early 2000’s.