In a year like no other, we have NBA Playoffs like no other.
Evidence of that is they are being played in September instead of June, interrupted by a player walkout protesting social injustice, anchored in a Walt Disney World bubble, protected from outside influences.
All of that is odd. Oddest though, may be the absence of the San Antonio Spurs, who have been a cornerstone of the basketball postseason for what seems forever.
For 22 consecutive seasons, the Spurs were playoff constants. The last time they were not invited to the postseason party was 1996-97 when Bill Clinton was president of the United States and Donald Trump was a charming rascal cavorting around New York’s nightlife.
It seems like forever ago.
The Spurs were a longshot from the beginning of the bubble adventure, stripped of injured former All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, saddled with a 32-39 record that left them 11th in a Conference they once routinely ruled. Two more starters, Trey Lyles and Bryn Forbes, also got hurt, leaving the team limping. They still won five of their first seven games in the bubble before being officially counted out.
And so Gregg Popovich, at 71 the league’s oldest coach, launches a reconstruction of this proud franchise. And he is convinced he has the pieces to build it back.
Coach Pop is excited by the progress young players like Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, Dejounte Murray and Keldon Johnson have made. He loves massaging young talent into a cohesive force on the floor. It didn’t hurt the streak, of course, to have foundation pieces like David Robinson and Tim Duncan wearing Spurs jerseys.
Still on Popovich’s agenda is the head coaching job for the United States Olympic team next summer in Tokyo. Those games were postponed this summer by the coronavirus pandemic.
Then there was the intriguing rumor that the Brooklyn nets might make a run at him. Nets’ GM Sean Marks won a ring playing for coach Pop in 2004 and won another as an assistant coach to 2014.
So when he was asked if he would continue to prowl NBA sidelines in what everyone hopes will be a more traditional season next year, coach Pop had a terse three-word answer.
“Why wouldn’t I?’’ he said.
And in the meantime, he’ll be studying film, looking at prospects, trying to figure out how to make the Spurs better and put his team in position to start another playoff streak.
.Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire