There’s been a lot of great plotlines to emerge from the 2019-20 San Antonio Spurs season, but there’ve also been some that we wish were April Fool’s jokes.
Don’t worry, we’re not here to prank you on April 1, 2020. It’d be too simple to write up an article titled “Gregg Popovich announces retirement from the San Antonio Spurs” as a headline with “Happy April Fool’s Day!” on the inside. To be honest, I don’t think anyone’s in the mood for that this year given the severity of what’s going on outside of the internet.
So even though we won’t be celebrating April Fool’s Day with a silly prank, we’re going to talk about a few plotlines for the Spurs’ 2019-20 season that we wish were jokes. March was a tough month for the NBA with the season being suspended indefinitely at the height of the playoff race.
We left off with San Antonio sitting outside of the playoff picture as the No. 12 seed in the Western Conference at 27-36, which is only four games behind the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies. There’ve been ups and downs throughout the rigid regular-season slate, but San Antonio should be proud of its progress.
The young talent is proving itself with the likes of Lonnie Walker IV, Keldon Johnson, Derrick White and Dejounte Murray all stepping up in the weeks before the hiatus. San Antonio’s leading scorer, DeMar DeRozan, is having the best year of his career and LaMarcus Aldridge is apparently one of the most accurate three-point shooters in the world. Who would’ve thunk it?
With that said, the Spurs are obviously not playing up to the entirety of their potential this year. These are the storylines that we wish weren’t so prominent this season for the silver and black.
Next: The Morris Fiasco
1. The Infamous Marcus Morris fiasco
San Antonio had a relatively quiet offseason with the biggest addition being forward Trey Lyles. They brought back Rudy Gay, who has been better as of late after a horribly slow start and signed forward DeMarre Carroll, who we’ll get to later.
However, the team’s mid-level exception was going toward an exciting new addition in forward Marcus Morris Sr., formerly of the Boston Celtics.
Instead of signing with a grade-A organization with a strong track record of taking care of players, Morris decided to tack a few million dollars extra to a one-year contract with the New York Knicks. That’s right, the James Dolan-owned Knicks who haven’t made the playoffs since the 2012-13 season. Yikes
Morris was stellar for New York before trading him to the LA Clippers. He put up 19.6 points and 5.4 rebounds in 43 games before taking on a reduced role as the fifth option in Los Angeles. Morris is shooting a career-high 41 percent from three-point range, a skill that San Antonio would’ve greatly benefitted from. His grit and defensive tenacity would’ve been appreciated as well.
In addition to being a huge disappointment for Spurs fans, this was just about the only thing people outside of the team’s community and fanbase would talk about in regards to the team this offseason. There was no talk about the organization’s underrated young core, DeRozan’s incredible progression or how point guard Dejounte Murray would return to his starting role.
For many fans, Morris robbed the team of a fun offseason and started off the year with a sour taste. If he wasn’t going to follow through on his agreement, he should’ve never made a verbal agreement with the team.
Next: DeMarre Carroll is not as advertised
2. DeMarre Carroll never pans out in silver and black
No one ever expected veteran wing DeMarre Carroll to be the savior of San Antonio’s illustrious 22-season playoff streak. However, it was expected that he’d show up in shape and prepared to take on the intricacies of Gregg Popovich’s system. Simply put, DeMarre Carroll was not the player that San Antonio thought he would be and for that, first-year general manager Brian Wright will be scrutinized.
He cleared his physical, but Spurs fans were surprised to see him out of the rotation when the regular season began. Eventually, it became a major talking point amongst the fanbase and reporters alike. Popovich would duck questions about his player, but the same few ideas kept coming up: Carroll and Popovich liked each other as people, but couldn’t click when it came to basketball.
There were rumors that Carroll was out of shape and couldn’t comprehend the role that Pop asked him to take on. The truth of the matter is still mostly under wraps despite many attempts by local beat reporters to pry the information free for the public. However, we do know that Carroll joined the rival Houston Rockets where he’s continued to contribute next to nothing for his team.
This isn’t meant to come off as a slander piece, because I personally was really excited to have him on the team. Carroll brings toughness and versatility to the table everywhere he goes, and he’ll always have the organization’s respect for how he handled himself, but he was a total disappointment as an anticipated role player.
Now, San Antonio has to pay Carroll his full salary next season and a small sum in the 2021-22 season as well. Needless to say, that’s not ideal for a team trying to figure out its future.
Next: The playoff streak is coming to an end
3. San Antonio’s playoff streak is finally over
The future is definitely bright for the Spurs, but the immediate future isn’t looking so great. Even though the team slipped out of the playoff picture for a while last year, it never got as bad as it is this late in the season.
As mentioned earlier, San Antonio is sitting as the No. 12 seed in the West with four games separating them and the eighth seed Memphis Grizzlies. If the gap between them and the Grizzlies was the only thing to be concerned about, then there’d still be a lot of optimism considering the Spurs have a weak remaining strength of schedule and the Grizzlies have a tough one.
The main issue, however, is that three other teams stand in San Antonio’s way. To make matters worse, the Sacramento Kings are 7-3 in their last 10 and have been on a red-hot tear against some strong competition. Another team in the Southwest Division, the New Orleans Pelicans, are learning how to run their team through phenomenon Zion Williamson while the ninth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers just returned a healthy Damian Lillard.
With all of these factors combined with the fact that San Antonio’s defense has been at it’s worst in many years, the outlook for a playoff run is bleak. This is a natural progression for all NBA teams, and for as much as losing is going to hurt, it could actually be good in the long run. Getting better draft picks and establishing a young core helps a team that had minimal title aspirations in the first place sets a tempo for what comes next.
Even with that being the case, a losing season isn’t fun—especially when you’re not used to dealing with that. It’ll be many fan’s first time seeing their team miss the playoffs and that’s going to burn.
Next: Saying goodbye to a Spurs legend
4. Signs pointing to 2020 as Popovich’s last season
In 2016, Spurs franchise cornerstone Tim Duncan decided to end his legendary career after a playoff loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was the first domino to fall, as both Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker retired in the subsequent years to complete the legacy of San Antonio’s Big Three with five championships, a heap of playoff appearances and lots of love.
The last piece, which many people may forget, is head coach Gregg Popovich. While Pop was around the game well before the Big Three era, he was the primary figurehead and guiding voice in all of the team’s championships. Popovich is a legendary strategist whose kind heart offsets his rugged, harsh demeanor.
Popovich is 71 years old now and has done more than enough to prove himself as one of, if not the single greatest head coach in the history of the sport. There’s not a whole lot left to prove besides an Olympic Gold Medal, which he was slated to snag in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Those have since been postponed, which poses an important question regarding Pop’s future: What’s next?
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It’s long been rumored that the Olympics would be the perfect send-off for one of the most beloved figures in the sport. The legendary coach would serve his country one more time, bringing honor and glory home in the name of USA Basketball. He already led the way in the FIBA World Cup last summer and has consistently planned for the moment that’s since been postponed.
This is the one storyline that is being impacted the most right now. Popovich hasn’t made any public comments about when he plans to retire, so this entire storyline is based on pure speculation, but the thought process has always been feasible.
Now that the Olympics have been pushed another year, it’s more likely that Pop sticks around another year—even if it’s just to fill the time between now and his shot at the Gold Medal. Still, this plotline has been prevalent yet hushed amongst Spurs fans for quite some time now.
Regardless of whatever comes next, Pop is going to be celebrated in San Antonio when he decides it’s time to retreat to his family and an extensive collection of wine.