For the first time since 1997, NBA playoff basketball will be played without the San Antonio Spurs.
With a loss against the Utah Jazz on Thursday, the Spurs were eliminated from playoff contention, finishing the season with a 32-39 record (5-3 in the Orlando bubble). It marks only the second time in Gregg Popovich’s head coaching career that he’ll miss the postseason and puts an end to a historic streak of 22 appearances in a row.
To put that into perspective, the second longest active streak up until yesterday (and now longest) was that of the Houston Rockets, which has lasted for only eight seasons. San Antonio’s streak is a true testament to Popovich’s greatness and the Spurs as a whole.
Regarding the streak, Popovich said, “It means a lot to a lot of people probably, but I don’t dwell on the past.” Instead, his focus was on the Spurs of the present and the future. He added, “I’m thrilled with the way [the Spurs] played [in Orlando], they had no shot to get into this thing.”
The future is very bright for San Antonio. They played some impressive basketball in Orlando, despite the odds stacked against them. Their squad will feature the veteran tandem of Demar Derozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, along with plenty of young talent from the likes of Dejounte Murray and Keldon Johnson.
Perhaps most important of all, Gregg Popovich isn’t going anywhere. So despite the Spurs’ uncharacteristic failure to make the playoffs this year, there’s a high chance they’ll be back in contention next year. And for the first time in over two decades, the team will have a new type of chip on the shoulder.