Tim Duncan retired following the 2016 playoffs, strolling off the floor unceremoniously with the rest of his team after the final seconds of the fourth quarter elapsed, the Spurs eliminated by OKC in the second round that post-season. Duncan's exit, as low key as it was, signalled big changes coming in San Antonio, and with the departures of Kawhi Leonard (traded), Tony Parker (left in free agency), Manu Ginóbili (retired), and Danny Green (traded), the 2018 off-season delivered them up. Greg Popovich is the last man standing in the era of basketball excellence he helped create, now tasked with the challenge of using the final seasons of his NBA coaching career to steer the Spurs towards a new era.
Duncan's retirement sounded bells for the end of the team's current era, and the departures of Parker and Manu amplified them further, but it will be the retirement of Coach Pop -- which may come after coaching Team USA at the 2020 Olympics, optimistically -- that will mark the beginning of a new one. The Spurs are currently executing a tricky and crucial transition, made exponentially trickier after Kawhi Leonard's relationship with the team disintegrated while nursing a slow-to-heal quadriceps injury, prompting him to bolt for the door. Following a season of unwelcome media drama surrounding Leonard and the Spurs, apparently concerning how his injury had been managed, the Spurs reluctantly traded the two-time Defensive Player of the Year to the Raptors this July. Kawhi Leonard was the transition -- or at least, its cornerstone -- the Spurs planned to supersede the Big Three of Duncan, Parker, and Ginóbili; instead, his departure almost exactly coincides with theirs.