For the first time since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976, both the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers have failed to make the playoffs in the same season.
This is the third consecutive season the Spurs failed to qualify for the postseason after making 22 consecutive appearances from 1998 through 2019. The Lakers, meanwhile, are missing the playoffs for the seventh time in the last nine years.
The Lakers and Spurs are two of the most consistent franchises in all of sports. In addition to all of the championship success each team has enjoyed, both are almost always in the playoff picture every season and often among the championship contenders.
The Spurs, of course, came over to the NBA in that merger and have missed the playoffs just seven times total since that time and never in consecutive seasons before their recent struggles. Likewise, the Lakers’ recent playoff drought was the worst in franchise history as well with the team only having missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons once before a five-year drought from 2014-to-2019.
The circumstances for each of these teams were much different this season, however. The Lakers were the biggest disappointment of the entire NBA with many seeing them as championship contenders behind the trio of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook. Injuries would destroy the team, however, which struggled to gel even when healthy as the Lakers failed to even qualify for the Play-In Tournament.
The Spurs coincidentally were the team that overtook the Lakers for that final Play-In spot, but expectations were much lower in San Antonio. Point guard Dejounte Murray made a leap, but the Spurs overall were a young team who even dealt away a couple of their bigger contributors at the trade deadline. They were ousted in the Play-In Tournament however, ending Gregg Popovich’s 25th full season with the team. The legendary Popovich did become the NBA’s all-time winningest coach this season though, setting the record against these Lakers.
Between the merger in 1976 and the 2014 season, these two franchises missed the playoffs just seven times combined while winning 15 NBA Championships, which just shows the level of success and consistency from each that very few teams can come close to matching.
What lies next for each will be monitored closely this offseason as the Lakers will surely be looking to make some moves to return to championship form while all questions surrounding the Spurs are currently focused on their legendary coach and whether or not he will return to the sidelines.
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