Spurs face uncertainty regarding NBA lockout and Rodeo Road Trip



Photo credit: Roy Montgomery

The San Antonio Spurs’ Rodeo Road Trip is a well-known resolve-tester around the NBA. Every year, the Spurs vacate the confines of the AT&T Center for a couple of weeks and hit the road. The RRT serves as way for the team to come together both on and off the court, whether planned or not. While some of its mythical characteristics are manufactured — Gregg Popovich doesn’t schedule team building exercises or force the players to hang out with each other — the pieces naturally seem to fall into place for the Spurs when the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo kicks-off.

Things could be drastically different in 2012, however, as the NBA Lockout threatens to cut into some or all of the 2011-12 season. If it does, it could rid the Spurs of all the positives of the Rodeo Road Trip. When the Spurs won their first NBA title in 1999, they didn’t have to face the RRT. The lockout-shortened season started on February 5 and ended on May 5, in between were 50 regular season games. The longest road trip the silver and black faced that season was a four game swing, which they did twice.

If the 2011-12 season is shortened by the current NBA Lockout, though, the Spurs won’t have anything near as favorable a schedule as the 1999 season was. The San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo is scheduled to run from February 6 through February 23, and, as far as I know, those dates are set in stone; the Rodeo won’t change its schedule to accommodate the NBA. San Antonio is looking at a nine game road trip as things stand now.

In 1999, the Spurs played 12 games from February 6-23, the span that the 2012 Rodeo runs. If the NBA season is shortened to 50 games and the Rodeo sticks with its current dates, the Spurs could be forced to start the season playing almost half of their road games in a row.

A 12 game road trip, while gargantuan, might not be as big of a deal if it was coming in the second half of the season. Normally the RRT is a chance for the Spurs to find their peak heading into the regular season’s stretch run. But we’re talking about starting the season on a 11 or 12 game road trip. The Spurs went 37-13 in that 1999 season and eight of those losses were in the first 14 games, with three of those losses coming at home. An eight month layoff does not typically lead to a hot start. The flip side is that the Spurs finish the regular season playing something like 25 of their last 38 at home, but by then significant damage could be done.

The Spurs’ Rodeo Road Trip is traditionally a celebrated affair. The Spurs hit the road and fancy graphics are created for TV to document how many miles the team travels from city to city. And usually, the Spurs win, often at a higher clip than during the rest of the season. But the lockout threatens to shorten the upcoming season and force the Spurs into starting the season with a longer, tougher and earlier Rodeo Road Trip, one that could severely threaten the Spurs’ chances at making the postseason.