I hope I’m not right.
But I’m really worried that I am. The Spurs are done. There, I said it!
I don’t want to believe it. San Antonio has been basketball’s standard of excellence for the past 20 years or so. It did things the right way. It was a model organization. It won consistently and at the highest level. Head coach Gregg Popovich is a wonderful human being, regardless of his occasional curtness with the media.
But I think we’re watching the beginning of the end of this Spurs dynasty unfold. Everyone knows about superstar small forward Kawhi Leonard’s trade request stemming from a mishandled quad injury that limited Leonard to nine games a year ago – coincidentally the first time since 1999 San Antonio won less than 50 games – and created tension between Leonard and the Spurs organization.
For a while, I was hesitant to buy into the rumors that Kawhi’s relationship with San Antonio was so far gone he would have to leave. After all, LaMarcus Aldridge was in the same boat two seasons ago. Disgruntled and unhappy with his new team, Aldridge reportedly wanted out before Popovich sat down with the All-Star big man to have a heart-to-heart talk about the future. Aldridge came back. Kawhi probably won’t.
But it’s more than that. Tony Parker’s gone, and that’s very symbolic in my eyes.
The four-time NBA Champion spent the first 17 years of his career in San Antonio with Popovich. The 36-year-old point guard’s name was synonymous with the Spurs, along with Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan.
Ginobili is 40 years young and has not announced retirement yet, although the clock is ticking on the crafty veteran from Argentina. Duncan retired after the 2015-16 season as a top-10 rebounder and shot blocker in NBA history.
But what about the icons that aren’t players? What about Popovich, the legendary head coach?
The one that set the record for most wins with one franchise in 2017. The one that won five NBA titles across three decades. Perhaps the only man in this operation more important than the players, Popovich might not roam the sidelines for much longer.
For one, it’s been reported that he might call it quits after the 2020 Olympics. For two, he’s 69 years old. For three, he just lost his wife of four decades, Erin, who was battling an illness for some time. She passed during the first round of the 2018 Playoffs.
I can’t imagine the toll that must take on him.
On top of everything, the Spurs have to tangle with Golden State in the playoffs in what seems like every postseason. The Warriors have sent San Antonio packing the previous two years on their way to back-to-back NBA titles.
But Golden State can thank Popovich for at least some of their success. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr played three seasons under Popovich, and it shows in the way they play. They move the ball around, they play as a team, they make the right play, swing the extra pass and win a lot of games – just like the Spurs did. The only difference is that the Warriors do it better because they have more talent to work with.
Essentially, I think that Golden State is going to pounce on the fall of San Antonio and become the NBA’s “new Spurs”. Basketball history is about to close one of its best chapters.
Then again, maybe I’m wrong. We’ll see.
Andrew Huang is a sports writer. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewJHuang and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.