The Rodeo Road Trip will Dictate the Rest of the Spurs Season

Nov 11, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich talks with guard Tony Parker (9) during the first half against the Detroit Pistons at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 11, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich talks with guard Tony Parker (9) during the first half against the Detroit Pistons at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /

The San Antonio Spurs embarked on their 15th Rodeo Road Trip with a loss in Memphis on Monday night, but bounced back with a win in Philadelphia last night. This stretch of road games is crucial for the San Antonio Spurs.

For a many reasons, this season is very strange for the Spurs.

They lost their cornerstone player and brought in seven new players (three of which are rookies). During the 52 games the Spurs have played so far, every starter has missed at least five games.

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If you take a look at the Spurs this season, there is a lot of inconsistency in their game. After losing a grand total of one game at home last year, the Spurs have already lost six home games this year. They also had some surprising defeats against teams under .500, which isn’t typical for a franchise with a history of winning.

However, the Spurs won good number of games in crunch time, depending heavily on Kawhi Leonard and his ability to close out games down the stretch.

One thing remained the same for Spurs.

Despite all the changes and injuries – the Spurs are still winning.

They hold the second best overall record in the league at 40-12, putting the Spurs on pace for another 60 win season. Winning is something that Spurs do naturally. The Sun rises in the East, and the Spurs win games.

The Spurs look to set aside the injuries as they embark on their Rodeo Road Trip. The first two games of the road trip are fitting the narrative of the season perfectly.

Without Leonard, they lost to Grizzlies and scored their lowest point total of the entire season. Last night, the Spurs put together a solid team performance led by Leonard’s 32 points, and mustered up a victory against the Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers.

According to head coach Gregg Popovich, an eight game road trip is exactly what the doctor ordered.

"“Camaraderie is always a big thing, especially with new players. You get used to each other, break bread and find out about each other’s families. It makes you want to play together.”"

More than anything, this road trip is a test of character.

Players will spend almost a whole month together, playing eight teams in seven cities over-the-course of a 20-day stretch. In this long stretch, the Spurs can learn a lot about themselves.

The most important piece of the puzzle is how the team will handle losses. This trip is great playoff simulation, as being able to win consistently on the road will help immensely in the pursuit of a another championship.

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The Spurs showed they can handle losses extremely well. Many players on the Spurs roster have been a part of championship teams and are acclimated with “the Spurs way” of getting things done.

At the end of the day, it’s about the young guys. If they can gain confidence with both themselves and their teammates throughout this road trip, the Spurs will play on higher level afterwards.

So, it’s not about the record on this road trip. If we look at the history of Spurs road trips, especially the four years in which the Spurs won championships, the road trip record wasn’t the real indicator of success. It was the games that followed.

In 2013-14, the last championship season, the Spurs had a 6-3 record on their road trip.  After the trip, the Spurs had 19 consecutive wins, ending the season on a 22-4 run.

In 2006-07, the Spurs had a  4-4 record on the road trip, which was followed by an 11-game winning streak.

The only championship season that stands out is the 2004-05 season. The Spurs were 4-4 on the road trip that season, and went only 18-11 afterwards. When you have Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli in their absolute prime, who cares about record?

On the other hand, the seasons where the Spurs were at their best on road trips, didn’t have a happy ending. The best example is last season.

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  • The Spurs were 43-8 heading into February, then went 7-1 on the road trip, ending their trip with an overall record of 50-9. However, the Spurs finished the season on a 17-6 run. Unfortunately, the Spurs ended up losing in the Western Conference Semifinals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    When the “Rodeo Road Trip” finishes in 20 days, Pau Gasol will be back in Spurs lineup. Tony Parker and Ginobli will probably rest a couple of games during the stretch.

    In the meantime, other players will get more minutes to gain some extra confidence. It’s a perfect opportunity for Spurs to finally shape their team, something they’ve been looking for the whole season.

    It seems that it’s not so much about the road trip, but the team’s reaction to it.  Sometimes it’s better to suffer defeats, question yourself, and attempt to find a solution. If the Spurs can do that as a team, they have good chances of going deep into playoffs this year.