Thu Aug 13 9:51pm ET
By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Basketball Writer
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich calls a timeout during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) Gregg Popovich didn't put much thought into San Antonio's playoff streak when it was rolling along.
He's not thinking about it now, either.
The Spurs' record-tying run of 22 consecutive playoff appearances is over, and the longest season in team history - almost 300 days from the first game to the last - is also, strangely, over earlier than the NBA is used to seeing. The final outcome was a 118-112 loss to the Utah Jazz on Thursday night, a game that was meaningless in the standings.
''Looking at the past doesn't do much good,'' Popovich said. ''Any success we've had has been because we've had some great players.''
Rayjon Tucker had 18 points for the Jazz, who finished with eight players in double figures and used their regulars either sparingly or not at all. Jarrell Brantley and Georges Niang each added 13 for the Jazz and All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell had 11 points in just 11 minutes in his final tune-up before the playoffs.
''You can't say enough about the Spurs,'' Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. ''They've been the premier franchise in the NBA for a long time.''
Keldon Johnson scored 24 points to lead seven Spurs in double figures. Marco Belinelli and Luka Samanic each had 16 for San Antonio.
The Spurs were officially ousted when Memphis beat Milwaukee, and Phoenix completed an undefeated eight-game run in the NBA's restart bubble with a victory over Dallas.
Those games went final shortly before San Antonio-Utah started. The Spurs needed the Grizzlies or the Suns to lose to have any chance of getting into the West play-in series that begins Saturday to decide the NBA's final postseason berth.
''It's tough,'' Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan said. ''It's more so tough putting your faith in somebody else's hands.''
Popovich's routine seemed normal. He met with assistants to discuss strategy before addressing players during timeouts. When someone needed a little 1-on-1 instruction, he approached and offered a word or two.
It looked just as it always does. Only this time, it was very different.
For the first time since April 1997, the Spurs played a game knowing that the playoffs were out of reach. The 22-year run of playoff spots tied the Philadelphia 76ers' franchise for the longest in NBA history. The 76ers, starting as the Syracuse Nationals before moving to Philadelphia, went to the playoffs every year from 1950 through 1971.
With San Antonio out, the longest active postseason streak now belongs to the Houston Rockets. They'll be in the playoffs for the eighth consecutive year starting next week.
This is how long the streak went: David Stern wasn't even halfway through his 30-year run as commissioner when it started. The Charlotte Bobcats - that's what today's Hornets went by then - were still 6-1/2 years from playing their first game. Pat Riley was still coaching the Los Angeles Lakers.
And now, for the first time since 1981, the playoffs will happen without either Riley or Popovich as head coaches.
The Spurs won five championships during the streak. They played 284 postseason games over those years; the only franchises within 100 of that were the Lakers (218), Miami (196) and Boston (192). And the Spurs won 170 playoff games in that span; only seven franchises have more playoff wins in their entire history.
All 170 of those wins for the Spurs came under Popovich, a total that gives him more career playoff victories than any two current coaches combined. There were 102 players who got into at least one Spurs playoff game during the streak, including current NBA head coaches Jacque Vaughn, Steve Kerr and Monty Williams.
The Spurs came into Disney as playoff long shots and felt the eight games they were guaranteed of playing during the restart would be ways to have young players grow from competition. They made it to the last possible day of contention.
''At this point, it's been a huge success for our team and our young players, the development that we've talked about from the beginning,'' Popovich said. ''We're very happy with what's gone on here.''
He has given the restart rave reviews, both on and off the floor.
Popovich - an Air Force Academy graduate and the coach of USA Basketball's men's national team - wore a shirt pregame that read ''Vote Your Life Depends On It.'' He has remained outspoken on the need to end racial injustice and police brutality during the Spurs' time in the bubble, talking about that perhaps as much if not more as he has about basketball.
''It's important to bring these up, painful as they are,'' Popovich said. ''Some people talk about getting tired of hearing about it. But that's the point. It has to change.''
Spurs: This was the first losing season for the Spurs since 1996-97, the year that Popovich became coach 18 games into the season - and just before Tim Duncan went San Antonio as the No. 1 overall pick in the 1997 draft.
Jazz: Mike Conley (right knee soreness) and Rudy Gobert (lower back soreness) were ruled out of the finale. ... The game was meaningless to Utah, which was locked into a first-round matchup against Denver that starts next week.
A pair of Australian national teamers, Utah's Joe Ingles and San Antonio's Patty Mills, exchanged jerseys postgame. Mills didn't play and spent the game as an assistant coach.
Spurs: Season complete.
Jazz: Game 1 against Denver, Monday.
Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George and forward Kawhi Leonard are committed to playing alongside each other. Both players have one year left on their deals, but have player options for the following season. Obviously, they didn't get the result they wanted this season, but they'll have another shot at it soon. The Clippers are desperate to make this core work after trading seven first-rounders and a future star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for George. Both players should remain top tier fantasy options in leagues next season.
Denver Nuggets guard/forward Will Barton (knee) is not expected to return to the team at any point of the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. The 29-year-old has not appeared in a game since the NBA restart in Orlando as he continues to rehabilitate from a knee injury that he suffered earlier in the season. With the Nuggets two games away from elimination in the Western Conference Finals, Barton's next game action will likely be delayed to the start of the 2020-21 season after averaging 15.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.1 steals on 45% shooting from field goal range through 58 games during the 2019-20 season.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward Dylan Windler (leg) is ready to participate in 5-on-5 workouts. He was a first round pick by the Cavs in 2019, but didn't play in a single game for the team. Windler suffered a leg injury that resulted in surgery, which cost him the entire season. It sounds like he is making progress and getting ready for next year. However, he'll face an uphill battle for minutes after the emergence of Kevin Porter Jr. towards the end of the regular season. Windler could find some minutes in Cleveland next season, but probably won't play enough to warrant drafting in most formats.
Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans decided to sit out the Orlando bubble in order to preserve his health for free agency. Bertans is an upcoming free agent and the Wizards had a slim chance of making the playoffs. He didn't believe it was worth the risk after not playing basketball for almost two months. Bertans sitting out shouldn't hinder his value whatsoever on the free agent market. He'll be a highly coveted player, but the Wizards are likely going to be aggressive to keep him in Washington.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo had a three-hour meeting with co-owner Marc Lasry on Saturday. They reportedly discussed the season and how the Bucks can improve their roster. Lasry confirmed that he is willing to go over the luxury tax this offseason. It sounds like the Bucks are trying everything to keep Antetokounmpo happy in Milwaukee. We'll see what happens during the offseason.
Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward (ankle) has been ruled out for Tuesday's Game 1 against the Miami Heat. He was listed as doubtful, but it appears Hayward will remain sidelined for this one. Hayward is likely going to need to go through a full practice before being allowed back on the court. The team is hopeful that Hayward will be able to play at some point during this series. It's unclear whether or not he'll be limited when he does return. Fantasy owners should keep an eye out for updates. In the meantime, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart will benefit with increased playing time.
Boston Celtics guard Javonte Green (knee) is listed as doubtful for Game 1 against the Miami Heat on Tuesday. He left the bubble in August to undergo an arthroscopic procedure to repair a small meniscal tear in his right knee. Green hasn't been able to play since then, but is surprisingly not listed as out here. Listing him as doubtful is actually an upgrade for Green. Regardless, Green won't have a big enough role in the rotation to do any damage in DFS lineups.
Houston Rockets forward Danuel House (personal) could miss the rest of the playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers. The NBA is currently doing an investigation on House allegedly sneaking a female into the bubble. It doesn't sound like he'll get back on the court until the NBA makes their decision. That means, Jeff Green, Austin Rivers, and Ben McLemore will see more playing time coming their way.
Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward (ankle) is back in the bubble and expected to clear quarantine on Friday. However, he is still not close to getting back on the court after suffering a Grade 3 ankle sprain in mid-August. The hope is that Hayward could return at some point next series, assuming the Celtics advance. Until then, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown will continue to have increased value.
Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela (foot) has been cleared to begin doing 5-on-5 workouts. The Hawks are expected to begin group workouts in the end of September, so Capela should be taking part in that. He was traded to Atlanta mid-season, but has not played a game for them yet due to a plantar fasciitis issue. He is fully expected to be ready for the 2020-2021 season. It'll be interesting to see what kind of fantasy value he produces alongside John Collins.
Charlotte Hornets forward Nicolas Batum is expected to pick up his $27 million player option for next season. It is far more than he'd get in free agency, so there's no reason for him not to accept the deal. It's the final year of his contract, so the Hornets are likely going to attempt to move Batum. Sadly, it's going to be difficult to find a trade partner when he's owed that much money. The Hornets are likely going to be stuck with Batum for at least one more season.
Houston Rockets forward Danuel House (personal) was unable to suit up for Tuesday's Game 3 against the Los Angeles Lakers. He is dealing with a personal issue, so it's unclear if he'll suit up next game. Robert Covington (face), Jeff Green, Austin Rivers, and Ben McLemore would benefit if House is out. Covington is the best fantasy option out of the bunch.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Marvin Williams has decided to retire from the NBA. The 34-year-old is walking away from the game after 15 productive seasons in the league. "I've been very blessed. God has been very, very good to me," Williams said. He was unable to win a championship before retiring, but put up fairly solid career numbers. Williams averaged 10.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.3 assists during his NBA career. He won't make the Hall of Fame, but he had a productive career nonetheless.
Houston Rockets forward Robert Covington (face) is expected to be available for Game 4 against the Los Angeles Lakers. It doesn't sound like his nose is broken and Covington was able to pass the concussion protocol. Danuel House (personal) is questionable for Game 4, which could mean big minutes for Covington. Fantasy owners should check back for another update.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Dion Waiters (groin) is listed as doubtful for Tuesday's Game 3 matchup versus the Houston Rockets. He has played a total of eight minutes in this series, so losing Waiters won't hurt too much. Rajon Rondo looked fantastic last game and would probably take most of his minutes anyway. Rondo could be a sneaky DFS option for Tuesday's slate.
Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro (hip) has been downgraded to questionable for Tuesday's Game 5 against the Milwaukee Bucks. He was listed as probable, but it appears he has a slight downgrade now. It doesn't sound like anything serious, but fantasy owners should check back closer to tip-off just in case. Andre Iguodala and Kendrick Nunn would benefit if Herro is unable to suit up.
Miami Heat forward Kelly Olynyk (knee) is listed as questionable for Tuesday's Game 5 against the Milwaukee Bucks. He was listed as questionable last game and only ended up playing 10 minutes. It sounds like Olynyk is a risky DFS option even if he does suit up for this one. Andre Iguodala would likely benefit the most if Olynyk is unable to play. Fantasy owners should check back closer to tip-off.
Miami Heat forward Jae Crowder (ankle) is listed as questionable for Tuesday's Game 5 against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Heat are a little banged up right now, so losing Crowder would hurt. Andre Iguodala would likely benefit the most if Crowder is out, but Kendrick Nunn and Derrick Jones could see more chances as well. Iguodala would be the best fantasy option there if Crowder sits out.
Toronto Raptors center Serge Ibaka (ankle) was seen wearing a walking boot during the media session on Tuesday. He tweaked his left ankle during Game 5 and it's unclear if he'll be available for Wednesday's contest. Ibaka was able to play through the issue, but it appears to be worse now. Chris Boucher and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson would split up the minutes if Ibaka is unable to play. Fantasy owners should check back on Wednesday for more information.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (ankle) was seen wearing a walking boot while arriving to the arena for Tuesday's Game 5 against the Miami Heat. He is currently listed as questionable, so there probably won't be a better update until closer to tip-off. Khris Middleton would see his usage skyrocket if Antetokounmpo is unable to suit up. Donte Divincenzo would likely enter the starting five and could be a nice DFS option. Fantasy owners should check back closer to tip-off.