The San Antonio Spurs did it again. Going for their 13th win in their last 14 games, the Spurs knocked off the Chicago Bulls in the third of their nine-game Rodeo Trip, recording a 2-1 record to this point. The scariest part is they did it without their Big Three–Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan. The latter two have been out for some time with minor injuries (Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich just wants to keep them fresh because they’re “old”) and Parker has been carrying the team during that time. However, San Antonio didn’t need any of its stars to cruise to this victory and it has to make the rest of the NBA wonder if a certain Spurs era isn’t drawing to a close, but is actually just beginning.
Last year, the Spurs defied age for what seemed like the 100th time by slicing their way through the playoffs until they ran into a brick wall in the Oklahoma City Thunder after going up 2-0 in the Western Conference Finals. During that time, the Spurs were relying heavily on a rested Big Three and although their new young players did well, they weren’t given quite the opportunity they should have been and Popovich knows that now.
That fact was evident on Monday night as San Antonio cruised past Chicago behind 26 points from Kawhi Leonard, 18 from Danny Green and 16 from Gary Neal, who are now infrequently being called the Next Big Three. Of course, it wasn’t just them; nine of the 10 Spurs who played on Monday night scored and five of them were in double figures. Nando De Colo dished out seven assists while adding nine points while having his name called on the highlight reel for likely the first time.
It’s these players who are not known outside of Spurs Nation who are not only driving the bus in the Big Three’s absence, but are slowly transitioning San Antonio into the well-rounded perennial title-contender it was at the turn of the century. The Spurs could very easily go on another 20-game winning streak, including 10 in the playoffs, but you can bet that the younger, lesser-known players mentioned above will have a lot more to do with the tougher games at the end this time around. That should scare the rest of the NBA and you can bet that it does.