The San Antonio Spurs are currently under .500 and sitting on the outside of the playoffs in the Western Conference. It’s only early February, and the Spurs have weeks left to go before they’re eliminated from postseason contention. But the reality of the situation is clear: San Antonio might miss the playoffs in 2020.
It has been a long time since the Spurs didn’t qualify for the NBA Playoffs. How long has it been exactly?
It has been 23 years: the last time the Spurs missed the playoffs was 1997.
It was Gregg Popvich’s first season as the team’s head coach after Bob Hill was fired following a 3-15 start to the campaign. That decision had plenty of drama involved, and not everyone believed in Popovich’s plan. After all, he was the team’s vice president of basketball operations before naming himself as Hill’s replacement.
“Honestly, I really thought it was a gag,” Spurs forward Dominique Wilkins told the San Antonio Express-News. “I just think it’s so unfortunate that something like this has to happen. (Hill) sure had done a great job here the last two years. He was frustrated this year – as we all are.”
Popovich had the Spurs finish out the season 17-47, ending the year with a 20-62 overall record. That was worth sixth place in the Midwest Division and 13th in the Western Conference.
The Spurs have been in the playoffs every season since, extending the streak to 22-straight seasons after earning the Western Conference’s No. 7 seed in 2019. During that span, the franchise has won five championships (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2014), all under the guise of Popovich.
The Spin on the Spurs
It has been a few seasons since the Spurs served as a serious threat to win a title, but throughout the 2000s and in the first half of the 2010s, they were one of the most feared teams in the league.
During the team’s current playoff streak, it has appeared in six NBA Finals and 10 Western Conference Finals, plus won 37 different playoff series. It played host to some of the best players of the last 25 years, such as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginoboli, and through those players and others was instrumental in forging a path for international players to find roles in the NBA.