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It's over: For first time in 23 seasons, Spurs miss playoffs

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.''

TIP-INS

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.

JERSEY SWAP

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.

UP NEXT

Spurs: Season complete.

Jazz: Game 1 against Denver, Monday.

Player Notes
Danny Green Sep 23 5:10pm ET

Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green (finger) is listed as probable for Thursday's Game 4 versus the Denver Nuggets. He tweaked his left ring finger on his non-shooting hand. Green is fully expected to suit up for this one. He hasn't put together great fantasy value during the playoffs, but has had his moments. Alex Caruso (wrist) and Rajon Rondo might see more minutes if Green does sit out. Fantasy owners should check back for another update closer to tip-off on Thursday.

Mitchell Robinson Sep 23 5:00pm ET

New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson has decided to sit out the upcoming voluntary workouts in the bubble. He did go through some individual workouts last week, but has chosen to not attend these events. The workouts start on Wednesday, but Robinson won't participate due to personal reasons. It would've been nice to see Robinson get in some extra work with head coach Tom Thibodeau. However, there is plenty of time for that with the season likely not starting until January. Robinson should have promising upside for fantasy leagues next season.

Buddy Hield Sep 23 5:00pm ET

Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield had a fairly rocky season, but did find some success coming off the bench with the second unit. Kings general manager Monte McNair praised Hield and mentioned that he is an important piece to their vision. Hield didn't seem too happy about playing off the bench, so we'll see if that changes going forward. McNair mentioned that he wants head coach Luke Walton to increase the pace next season. Whether he's starting or off the bench, Hield is worth grabbing in the middle rounds of most drafts next season.

Alex Caruso Sep 23 5:00pm ET

Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso (wrist) is listed as probable for Thursday's Game 4 contest against the Denver Nuggets. Caruso mentioned that his left wrist felt a little stiff after Tuesday's loss. He'll get an MRI on Wednesday, but Caruso is expected to play through the issue. Fantasy owners should check back for another update before tip-off on Thursday. Rajon Rondo would likely see more minutes coming his way if Caruso sits out.

Dion Waiters Sep 22 5:40pm ET

Los Angeles Lakers guard Dion Waiters (groin) is expected to miss Tuesday's Game 3 contest against the Denver Nuggets. Waiters has missed each of the last five games due to a left groin injury. He is currently listed as doubtful for this game, so it's unlikely that he suits up here. His absence won't mean a whole lot for the Lakers rotation. Alex Caruso and Rajon Rondo could see a few extra minutes coming their way.

JJ Redick Sep 22 5:30pm ET

New Orleans Pelicans guard J.J. Redick mentioned that he'd like to play another four years in the league. "I realized this year I want to keep playing as long as possible. My goal is to play four more years," said Redick. He'll walk away from the game when he turns 40 years old, assuming his body can hold up until then. It's not unrealistic to think that Redick can play four more seasons after averaging 15.3 points this season. He has one year left on his current deal with the Pelicans. Redick usually carries some low-end fantasy value, assuming he continues to play like he did this season.

Tristan Thompson Sep 22 5:30pm ET

Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson has shown interest in staying with the organization next season. It sounds like there is mutual interest between both sides, but it's unclear if a deal will happen. Bringing back Thompson wouldn't make much sense if Andre Drummond accepts his player option, which he is expected to do. Thompson might be forced to test his luck on the free agent market. He won't have much value in fantasy hoops if stays in Cleveland alongside Drummond.

Romeo Langford Sep 22 5:20pm ET

Boston Celtics guard Romeo Langford (wrist) is scheduled to undergo surgery on Tuesday and will miss the rest of the postseason. He'll undergo surgery to repair the scapholunate ligament in his right wrist. The Celtics have not given a timetable for the young guards return yet. However, the season isn't expected to start until around December, so Langford should have plenty of time to recover. His absence won't mean much for the Celtics rotation. Hopefully he'll be able to contribute to the team next season.

Paul George Sep 21 4:10pm ET

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.

Will Barton Sep 21 2:30pm ET

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.

Dylan Windler Sep 20 12:50pm ET

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.

Davis Bertans Sep 16 4:30pm ET

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.

Giannis Antetokounmpo Sep 15 5:40pm ET

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.

Gordon Hayward Sep 15 5:40pm ET

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.

Javonte Green Sep 15 5:30pm ET

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.

Danuel House Jr. Sep 11 3:30pm ET

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.

Gordon Hayward Sep 11 3:20pm ET

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.

Clint Capela Sep 9 2:50pm ET

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.

Nicolas Batum Sep 9 2:40pm ET

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.

Danuel House Jr. Sep 9 2:40pm ET

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.