It's not the end of an era for the San Antonio Spurs. It's not time to hit the reset button and start again. It's not even time for a change in direction.
The Spurs were dumped out of this season's NBA playoffs by the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Western Conference semi-final stage. After a franchise-best 67-win regular season, many were expecting the Spurs to clash with the Golden State Warriors in the finals of the West.
Things didn't play out that way, though, so now it must surely be time for a new era. A fresh start. What else could it be? It's not like the Western conference is super competitive or anything. It must be the Spurs. They're old.
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But what it's actually time for now is for Gregg Popovic to continue evolving the team on the path they are already on right now. The team lost. It happens. That's it. It's not time for a new era. The era of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker already ended back when Kawhi Leonard was voted NBA Finals MVP two years ago.
A new era is already underway and growing with Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge as the team's leading men. The torch has already been passed. Which is unfortunate for Popovich because a Duncan-led Spurs in their prime might have seen off the threat of the Thunder this post-season. The new-look Spurs certainly couldn't.
Some tweaks to the team this summer are inevitable, however. Will Duncan return for another season? If so, does he drop to the bench full time now? Duncan still put together a solid body of work in the regular season. It just fell apart when the energy, intensity and physicality went up in the latter stages of the playoffs.
The acquisition of free agent Pau Gasol has been mooted. Not exactly a piece to build around for the future. But a player to compliment Leonard and Aldridge in the short-term. Gasol is a gifted offensive player who would surely have the passing ability to fit seamlessly into Popovich's system.
Will Popovich persist with Parker as his point guard? Parker always seems to go through a phase where people declare it's the end of his race. Only for him to then come back and prove everybody wrong. Can the 34-year-old do that one more time? Or is it really time for a change at this point?
The Spurs have been linked with Mike Conley. The Memphis Grizzlies playmaker will also be a free agent in the offseason, and presents an intriguing option for Popovich with his ball-handling, passing and basketball IQ. Not to mention a player in his prime at 28 years of age.
Both Conley and Gasol are great potential options to put around Leonard and Aldridge. As are Jeff Teague and Al Horford, who have also been linked with summer moves to San Antonio. Not a new era, as such. Just additional pieces.
With Leonard, Aldridge and Danny Green all pretty much set in stone for next season, the foundations are already there. Young players like Kyle Anderson and Jonathon Simmons are emerging, too.
The futures of veterans like Duncan, Ginobili, Parker and Boris Diaw are where the uncertainty now lies. David West, too, has a player option in his contract. But the team's leaders already are and will continue to be Leonard and Aldridge. Their time is right now. Ultimately, this season's playoff loss sits on their shoulders, not the veterans.
Talk of a changing of the guard is inaccurate. The Spurs already changed direction long before now. And a crushing exit from this year's playoffs does not change anything. Despite that loss, the future is still the present for Popovich and the Spurs.