Now that Manu Ginobili has joined Tim Duncan in retirement, Kawhi Leonard has been traded and Tony Parker has moved to the Charlotte Hornets, there is little evidence of the championship-winning teams from the past 20 years.
But following the busy off-season, the Spurs still have three big questions that need answering before the 2018-2019 campaign begins.
3. How Much Longer Can Popovich Coach?
That is, apart from Gregg Popovich. But the legendary coach has not had to build a brand new offense around a go-to player since then he took over as Head Coach in 1996. There may have been tweaks between then and now to accommodate for the talents of his role players and the health of his stars, but this season might just be Pop’s biggest challenge since he entered the league, and as one of the oldest coaches in the NBA, some have wondered whether the Team USA coach is up to it.
In 2015, the team signed the biggest free agent of the summer in LaMarcus Aldridge. Last season, he signed a new three-year contract and put together his best season in San Antonio.
The Spurs also traded for DeMar DeRozan this past off-season, giving them a second player who made the most recent All-NBA Team.
Few teams have two players of this caliber, so while the franchise might be starting a whole new chapter, having two great players and one of the two or three best coaches of all time working from the same playbook makes them promising on paper.
However, building the system with two All-Star level egos, neither of which were around for San Antonio’s glory days, will be an interesting challenge for a coach whose career has been built on player development and roster stability.
When Aldridge asked for a trade at the end of the 2017 season because of Popovich’s “overcoaching”, it was a new experience.
For three decades, the franchise was gifted with two of the most respectful, coachable, team-first superstars in NBA history, with David Robinson and Duncan, but without that leadership on court, Popovich has to learn to submit to a different type of star. However, when you consider Aldridge’s rebounds were up last year, he had also scored, assisted and shot the ball better than any season he’d had in San Antonio, it’s safe to say that the heart to heart conversation between the team’s new star and its old grizzled coach worked – it showed Popovich still has an ability to switch up his coaching style.
The key question will be if he can do this with DeRozan as well. The former Raptor became loved in Toronto and envisioned spending his whole career playing there. He was a upset when he learned about the trade.
But the signs during the off-season were promising. Popovich and DeRozan spent plenty of time together for Team USA, The guard joined Rudy Gay at summer league’s in Los Angeles, and the rapport with his new city seems to be developing.
Next Up: Question 2