Head coach Gregg Popovich is going to travel with the Spurs to Orlando on Thursday for the NBA restart, according to a report from Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News.
This decision comes after much speculation surrounding whether or not the 71-year-old playcaller would make the trip amid the health concerns surrounding the ongoing Coronovirus pandemic. Though Popovich is statistically vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 as a member of the senior citizen community, the league has taken several precautions to ensure the safety of those participating in the resumption.
While Popovich has locked in his plans to man the sidelines for the Silver and Black, his choice means a minimum five-week commitment to staying inside in the Walt Disney World bubble. And that’s somewhat surprising given the good guys’ negligible shot at qualifying for the postseason without LaMarcus Aldridge and a roster devoid of a true superstar.
As the oldest head coach in the association, conforming to the pace-and-space trend of modern-day basketball hasn’t necessarily been a top priority for PATFO. San Antonio attempted the third-fewest three-pointers over the last half-decade, nearly 7,500 fewer long-distance tries than the trigger-happy Houston Rockets, and that number doesn’t figure to rise anytime soon as long as Popovich is at the helm.
And while it may be easy to point the finger at the stubborn curmudgeon in charge for the Spurs falling behind the curve, the lifelong student of the game hasn’t been handed the easiest of situations in the post-Kawhi Leonard split. His best defenders aren’t exactly knockdown shooters, his best shooters hardly defender, and his go-to scorers are midrange masters of a bygone era.
Keeping that in mind, Popovich and crew can’t possibly hope to sneak into the playoffs without a lot of luck and a major shift in strategy. Relying on one-dimensional players and past-their-prime veterans landed the Spurs in an unfavorable position in the Western Conference standings, but leaning in on their young core of persistent point stoppers could be the answer to securing a league-record 23rd straight trip to the postseason.
Are the odds against San Antonio as they load their luggage for their Florida-bound flight? Unequivocally yes. Still, this eight-game schedule gives the Spurs a perfect opportunity to evaluate Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, Jakob Poeltl, Luka Samanic, Keldon Johnson, and the rest of their developing talents with little to no consequence.
We’re mere weeks away from some NBA basketball, so clear your schedules and fire up the DVR. Although I’m not sure what to expect from this expeditious return to action, watching the Spurs grace the court for the first time in over four months will be a long-awaited treat for the Silver and Black faithful, regardless of the success of their playoff pursuits.