How the San Antonio Spurs Can Survive Tony Parker's Injury
Parker had been playing at an MVP level throughout the season, and prior to the injury his dominance had the league buzzing, sparking several debates involving the 30-year-old star.
He had been carrying the Spurs throughout the entirety of the season, and in wake of this setback the Spurs—currently sitting atop the West in the standings—will be forced to find other ways in which to continue their supremacy sans their most pivotal contributor.
Currently just three games ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Spurs will need to maintain the narrow lead during the hectic month should they wish to enter the postseason with the top seed.
Doing so would require a successful March campaign, and while they do have home-court advantage for 10 of their remaining 12 games, the schedule itself is not auspicious.
Facing powerhouses like Oklahoma City, the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Clippers won't be an easy task for the Parker-less Spurs, nor will contests against other playoff contenders such as the Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors.
Yet, the Spurs' storybook dominance has become so routine in years past that an injury—even one of such magnitude as this—should not steer them way off path. Despite unfavorable conditions, the veteran squad should not struggle to maintain composure.
With Parker sidelined, the focus will fall on players like Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili to pick up the slack.
Duncan, having been elected an All-Star in February, will become the go-to guy on offense. His ability to assert his dominance inside should make their post play a primary option in wake of the injury, but Duncan's superb playmaking abilities will allow for the Spurs to continue their reign as a pass-first squad. His keen passing senses should allow for the offense to develop from the inside-out, with Duncan finding players along the perimeter for open looks in addition to his own scoring prowess.
As for the ball-handling duties, Manu Ginobili's role to the team will increase dramatically, with the shooting guard being forced into the injured Parker's shoes as the primary floor general.
He possesses a scoring aptitude when given the opportunity, and his ability to make seemingly impossible passes should help the Spurs reproduce the ball movement that they have showcased up to this point.
Aside from Duncan and Ginobili, role players—primarily the plethora of backup guards—will need to step up in Parker's stead as well.
With Nando de Colo, Patty Mills and Cory Joseph each vying for a permanent backup duty, the newly established opportunity should be the perfect platform for each to showcase their talents.
Similarly to the discovery of Danny Green during a Ginobili injury last season, giving the younger players the opportunity to prove their worth could result in a magnificent finding, and a potential key contributor going forward.
Each of Mills, de Colo and Joseph possess a unique skill, with Mills' speed giving him a scoring advantage over the latter, while de Colo remains the niftiest passer of the three.
Joseph, who has floated between the NBA and the D-League, is quite raw as compared to the aforementioned, but he alone possesses the ideal combination of scoring and passing.
Between the three, a diamond in the rough should emerge, easing the Spurs' time without their star, while finally solving the highly disputed backup point guard debate prior to the playoffs' commencement.
More so than anything else, however, will be the ability of Gregg Popovich to use his coaching tactics to help the team win games, even when they fall short from a talent perspective.
His in-game management is remarkable, as is his ability to develop bench-warmers into stars despite unfortunate situations. While life without Parker will certainly not be a breeze, Popovich's masterful managing should allow for them to remain dominant nonetheless.
Though the Spurs will have a much more difficult time winning sans their star, ensuring that Parker heals properly will be of utmost importance going forward.
Even if the team begins to slip in the standings, the regular season is inconsequential as compared to the playoffs, and the Spurs' chances of winning a title without Parker at full health are slim. His play and health alone may dictate the length of their postseason run, and if that means resting the superstar longer than expected, the Spurs shouldn't hesitate to do so.
The squad is deep and talented enough to survive the setback, and though life without the stud will be difficult, if the team approaches the issue properly, Parker's injury should not hinder its title chances significantly.
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