AP – The San Antonio Spurs will try to extend the longest active playoff streak in North American major sports without LaMarcus Aldridge and with a decent mathematical chance to sneak into the final postseason spot in the Western Conference.
The 22-season run is on the mind of guard Patty Mills, along with coach Gregg Popovich’s view that the Spurs will be more preoccupied with the future than whether they avoid missing the playoffs for the first time since a couple of months before they drafted Tim Duncan in 1997.
“It’s important,” Mills said of trying to extend the streak. “It’s one element of the big picture of the San Antonio Spurs organisation and how well the team has done over the course of a couple of decades.
“But, at the same time, you got to look at the big picture, you got to look at the future and where we are at organisation-wise in trying to bridge the gap between the success the Spurs have had and where that sees us in the future.”
Aldridge had shoulder surgery in April, about six weeks after the pandemic shut down sports, and the Spurs announced last month he wouldn’t play when the season resumed.
The seven-time All-Star’s absence puts most of the burden on leading scorer DeMar DeRozan if the Spurs are to challenge eighth-place Memphis, which would only happen if they can emerge from the five-team cluster that rounds out the Western Conference in the 22-team restart.
The Spurs can force a play-in series by staying within four games of the Grizzlies, and they’ll likely have a pretty good idea right away of their chances. The first two games are against Memphis and Sacramento, which is a half-game ahead of San Antonio.
“We’re not here for no reason,” DeRozan said. “Definitely develop and compete at the same time. Once you keep that mindset of going out there and winning, anything can happen. Despite whatever the odds, percentages may be, you can’t feed into that.”
With Aldridge out, the focus also shifts to young point guards Dejounte Murray and Derrick White, who have struggled under heightened expectations.
Because of the shortened year due to the pandemic, the Spurs are already guaranteed their first losing season since going 20-62 in 1996-97 and getting the number one pick that led to Duncan.