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Rock Street, San Francisco

Yes, you have read this article before. Yes, NBA commentators have talked for years about how the Spurs will decline any day now, only to look like fools as the Gregg Popovich machine evolves yet again. Yes, you can never count out the Spurs.But for what feels like the first time in years, the San Antonio Spurs look like they are composed of mortal men. They have won three of their past eight games. Their offense looks stagnant. They have fallen out of the third seed to the surprising Minnesota Timberwolves. And their 30-18 record, which would be on track for 51 or 52 wins, is San Antonio’s lowest winning percentage since 2010.And yesterday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski released a report declaring that concerns over the rehabilitation of Kawhi Leonard’s quadriceps injury has created “a chilling impact” between himself and the Spurs. A relative of Kawhi told the San Antonio Express-News that “There is nothing true to that story,” and it is difficult to believe that Leonard, who will be a free agent in 2019, would actually leave San Antonio. Remember that the Spurs can offer Leonard a 5-year, $217 million extension next season.Nevertheless, Kawhi Leonard has been sidelined again and no one knows when he will return. And there are more reasons to think things will get worse for San Antonio instead of better.A Developmental RosterFor one, San Antonio has the third-hardest remaining schedule in the entire NBA. According to Playoff Status, with 23 games against above .500 teams and three games each against the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets. Remember that good teams like the Spurs normally have easier remaining schedules because they do not play themselves, and that further emphasizes their tough road over the coming months.The Spurs have a hard remaining schedule, and yet the famous ball movement which defined the Spurs for years has faded away into stagnation. With Kawhi as well as Manu Ginobili and Rudy Gay out with injuries, the Spurs have depended on LaMarcus Aldridge to create just about everything on offense. Aldridge has never been a particularly efficient player, and San Antonio has a below average offense for the time years.Spurs fans may claim that things will be better when Leonard, Ginobili and Gay return, or that the 2017-18 season is a developmental year and so taking a step back this year is fine. But counting on a 40-year old with a prolific injury history and a player coming off an Achilles injury to stay healthy is foolhardy, and even Kawhi’s injury history has never been great. Popovich clearly does not trust Kawhi to play huge minutes like other teams do with their star wings. While it is true that Popovich loves to rest his guys, according to Nil Odds, Kawhi has only averaged above 36 mpg in the postseason just once in 2013. And who do the Spurs intend to develop? Yes, San Antonio takes trash and turns them into useful players. Dejounte Murray and Kyle Anderson have shown potential. But they are not stars. Even the Spurs need stars, and neither Aldridge nor Leonard are young prospects at 32 and 26 respectively. The Spurs are not any younger than Houston or Golden State who also have some young, decent prospects. And no one would call those two teams developing.Most NBA analysts are willing to cut the Spurs slack for good reason, and there is no doubt San Antonio will make the playoffs. But this does not look like a team which can compete with Houston, let alone Golden State. And the Spurs could eventually find themselves in a situation similar to the Atlanta Hawks of a few years ago; always able to make the playoffs and able to win a series, but with no road to actually win a title. ?

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