If you're hoping for the San Antonio Spurs to intentionally lose to increase their draft odds, you might be sorely disappointed.
After the Spurs' hard-fought loss to the Chicago Bulls on Monday, they sit with the seventh-worst record in the NBA yet still within two games of the 2022 NBA Play-in Tournament. Their place in the standings somehow gives them a decent shot at a high lottery pick while still technically having a shot at an NBA title. Of course, the latter isn't very realistic.
Still, Coach Popovich isn't about to tell his squad to go out there and lay eggs in the hopes of landing a Paolo Banchero or Chet Holmgren in the upcoming draft.
"If you put yourself in the situation, more as a coach than any other position in the organization, besides players, you can’t go to your team and ask them to lose," said Popovich ahead of the game against Chicago. "You can’t do that. It’s an impossibility for all of the logical reasons you can think of on your own."
As you'd expect, the players had a similar response when asked about the possibility of tanking for better position.
"Nobody is here to lose," said Dejounte Murray. "Everybody wants to win."
"We aren't thinking about the lottery," echoed Devin Vassell. "We are thinking about winning the next game. We are thinking about playoffs. We are not saying the season is a wash."
The Play-in Tournament Has Made Anything Possible
At this point in a season before the play-in tournament was created, making up 6.5 games with 24 games left would've been too tough to even bother with. That's how many games the Spurs sit behind the LA Clippers, who currently hold the 8th seed in the Western Conference.
Not only did the NBA Play-in Tournament alter how teams tackle the trade deadline, but it also allows for underperforming teams to get it together and prove themselves in the guts of the season.
While it would still be a longshot for San Antonio to make it to this year's playoffs, their chance to do so is still very much alive. The teams to watch as threats for the 10th seed will likely come down to New Orleans, Sacramento, and Portland. The Trail Blazers gave up seemingly half of their team at the deadline while Sacramento dealt its best player.
Whether Spurs fans like it or not, the Silver and Black might just make it to the play-in tournament by default -- where anything is possible.
"We feel like we can make a push, and that's what we are going to do," said Vassell. Time will tell if they're able to make that happen, but don't expect the young squad to settle for anything less than their best down the stretch.