The San Antonio Spurs aren't used to having losing records, but barring some miraculous developments, they likely are facing at least one more season of that in 2022. With a roster full of potential but no discernible franchise-altering talent, there are bound to be many rough stretches in the season ahead.
It's a situation unfamiliar to Head Coach Gregg Popovich, who's been fortunate enough to coach some of the greatest NBA players of all time in the past. Of course, he's had a direct hand in shaping all of those players to where they ended up. Now he faces a challenge he's never faced as a head coach in 26 years.
For the first time since beginning his head coaching career in 1996, Coach Popovich has no former or current NBA All-Stars on his squad. As such, the Spurs aren't expected to make much noise in the Western Conference, falling near the bottom of rankings by national media outlets.
Still, perhaps feeding off the career-defining accomplishment of winning Olympic gold in Tokyo, Popovich seems full of renewed energy for the 2022 season.
"I'm thrilled with this group," said Popovich on Spurs Media Day. "They're young, energetic, have a lot of speed. We're not worried about stats or individual honors. These guys are just going to have a ball playing."
Even if it might not always result in wins this season, the Spurs are going to be very fun to watch as they learn how to play for one another while improving as individual players. Playing fast was one of the biggest points of emphasis Coach Popovich brought up before the preseason.
"The pace should really be enjoyable to watch," said Popovich. "They enjoy each other. It's exciting to me."
San Antonio will need to rely on their increased pace and better shooting to compete in the loaded West. If they do so to the tune of at least 26 wins, Popovich will stand alone as the all-time winningest NBA head coach. As much as he probably doesn't care about that, the feat would just be a feather in the cap of the greatest coach the league has ever seen.
"This is not a superstar-filled team," Popovich said. "It's a team filled with great character. That's what makes it fun."