- How many games each team won compared to the previous year.
- How they did in the playoffs.
- My gut instinct.
With that in mind, and a disclaimer that we’re only looking back to ’89, here we go.
In ’96-’97, as we all remember, Robinson went down for the season. That team ranked 27th offensively, dead last defensively, and missed the playoffs for only the 4th time in the 36 years they’ve been in San Antonio. In the summer of ’97, everything fell into place as the balls bounced our way, and Tim Duncan was drafted with the number 1 pick. The next season saw the Spurs rank 17th offensively, 2nd defensively, and Popovich’s first full year as coach established traditions that have set the tone for a decade.
Larry Brown coached us to a 21-61 record, in ’88-’89, but help was soon on the way. After finishing his commitment to the Navy, Robinson finally joined the team in ’89. Also added to the roster was Sean Elliott. These two formed the foundation of the Spurs for the next decade.
The ’89-’90 team raced back into the playoffs, losing to the Blazers in the second round.
With Duncan established as the franchise player, and a full year of the Twin Towers already complete, San Antonio went out and got some fire power. Antonio Daniels, Mario Elie, and Jaren Jackson all brought something to the table. Known from his time with the Bulls, Steve Kerr brought a devastating 3 pointer that punished opponents for years.
The lockout-shortened year produced a record that projected to 60 wins. This cohesive group started slow and quickly gained momentum to win their first NBA championship, becoming the first former ABA team to win it all.
It didn’t seem like there was a lot of improvement that could be done on ’03-’04 record, but losing to the Lakers took its toll. Plugging in Brent Barry and Nazr Mohammed helped to push us back to the Finals.
It was easy cruising through the west, but then came the Pistons. In a hard fought seven games, San Antonio prevailed. Of course, luck helped, but a Rasheed Wallace defensive meltdown could have changed the end result.
In ’01-’02, the Spurs finished at 58-24, first in the midwest division. Despite ranking 9th offensively and 2nd defensively, the Lakers were just too much to handle. With some young kid named Ginobili joining the team, as well as Speedy Claxton, we weren’t quite sure what to expect in ’03.
Manu exploded in the playoffs, and Claxton’s 4th quarters helped seal the deal against New Jersey. This was also the inspiration Parker needed to refine his talents into the All Star player we have today.