However, some of the Spurs’ most crucial players have been in and out of games for injuries and other reasons. If San Antonio wants to take the best shot at the title, the team needs to get healthy and stay healthy. Let’s take a look at what the Spurs need to do to get as far as possible in the playoffs.
Though star point guard Tony Parker suffered an injury to his right arm during Thursday night’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers, he did not let coach Gregg Popovich know and went on to play during the following night’s loss against the Golden State Warriors.
According to Mike Monroe of Spurs Nation, on Sunday Popovich said of Parker regarding the injury, “He was a little too much in hero mode.” He added, “He really wasn’t forthcoming. We didn’t realize it until about halfway through the game when he didn’t shoot any (perimeter) shots. I would have sat him in that game, and that’s definitely why we’re sitting him tonight.”
Though he expects to return on Wednesday night when the Spurs play the Phoenix Suns, Parker needs to learn to give his body time to heal. He cannot be pushing through injuries that could become serious and cause him to miss crucial playoff minutes.
Power forward Tim Duncan has dealt with recurring knee problems recently. A sore left knee forced him to miss games in late January, and he sprained the same knee, along with his right ankle, during the first half of the February 2 matchup between the Spurs and Washington Wizards.
Though Duncan is back for now, he hasn’t been playing as well as his season statistics indicate he should be. Particularly on Sunday during the Spurs’ win against Phoenix, Duncan totaled 10 points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes. For the 2012-13 season, he averages a much-higher 16.7 points and 9.6 rebounds per 29.6 minutes of game play.
The 36-year-old power forward needs to make sure he has adequate rest so that his 15 years in the NBA and his knee problems don’t interfere with his game during the playoffs.
Ginobili is another veteran who hasn’t been playing too spectacularly and who has fought injury recently. The shooting guard missed several games because of a tight left hamstring.
Ginobili returned on February 13 for the Spurs game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, coming off the bench and watching his minutes. He played relatively well on Sunday against Phoenix, totaling 12 points, three rebounds, six assists and three steals in 24 minutes.
However, age could be an inhibiting factor for Ginobili, just as it could be for Duncan. The guard is 35 years old and in his 11th year in the league. Popovich needs to continue to watch Ginobili’s minutes and allow the other bench players to relieve him so that he does not suffer any more minor, but nagging, injuries around the playoffs.
Unfortunately, Stephen Jackson encountered a difficult personal tragedy recently. The small forward missed road games in Chicago, Cleveland and Sacramento before the All-Star break because his wife suffered a miscarriage after six-and-a-half months of carrying the child.
The swingman, who can be great off the bench for the Spurs, returned to gameplay on Thursday, February 21. According to Mike Monroe, Jackson said after his leave of absence, “It was an unfortunate situation.” He continued, “Very frustrating and emotional and I’m nowhere close to being over it.” Jackson insists that being back with the team will help to heal him.
Yet the situation is undoubtedly still weighing on Jackson’s mind. His play has been mediocre in comparison to his season statistics; against Phoenix on Sunday, Jackson played 15 minutes and grabbed three points, one rebound and two assists.
Hopefully, Jackson is given enough time to emotionally heal so that he can focus on the satisfaction he gets from playing the sport that he loves.
If Duncan and Ginobili are watching their minutes and Parker is making sure he has enough time to heal, that means the Spurs bench needs to play consistently well. Though San Antonio is often praised for having a deep team, some of the bench players don’t come to play every game. J. Gomez on SB Nation even goes so far as to say the Spurs have a “good bench, mediocre bench players.”
In particular, center Boris Diaw is not consistently good on the boards. On February 22 against Golden State, Diaw played 17 minutes and only picked up two points and two rebounds.
Point guard Gary Neal doesn’t have the greatest assists to turnover ratio, and his statistics from the February 21 game against the Clippers look pretty mediocre when compared to his season statistics. He played 17 minutes and totaled only two points, two rebounds and two assists.
Both these players, in addition to the rest of the Spurs bench, need to be in prime shape going into the playoffs. Hopefully, the opportunities of more playing time that they’ve had with Parker and other veterans out will help them do just that.