The San Antonio Spurs and Rabies Shots

Brandon LandContributor IApril 21, 2010

SAN ANTONIO - MARCH 24:  Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center on March 24, 2010 in San Antonio, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Although it was back on the last day of October, the play that made the highlight reel is still fresh in at least one player's mind. He was constantly reminded for the next month with an array of rabies shots.

It wasn't a highlight dunk or block that got Ginobili the attention on Halloween; no, it was the effortless way in which he swatted down a stray bat in the AT&T Center with a motion that had the feeling of a scene in The Karate Kid in which Daniel was able to catch a pesky fly with chopsticks.

Since the bat survived and was not able to be retrieved, Ginobili received precautionary rabies vaccinations that caused Manu himself to proclaim, "the bat won."

Nearly six months later, Gregg Popovich might wish for his entire team to get vaccinated if it will cause them to play the way Ginobili has in recent months, or at the very least take some pressure off of Ginobili, Duncan, and Parker.

"I thought we had a lot of guys that played like dogs."

That, my friends, is the sound of a man who knows that his role-players simply didn't do enough for the team. As a matter of fact, Popovich knows as well as anyone that his Spurs were fortunate for the score to be as close as it was, only losing by a margin of six after a 100-94 defeat in which the Spurs were vastly outplayed by the Dallas Mavericks.

The player who should be first in line at the clinic tomorrow morning should be Richard Jefferson. Although Jefferson has flourished recently playing alongside Ginobili, he might as well have called in sick for Sunday night's game. He looked lost, confused, and overwhelmed by the moment, and most likely caught himself watching Dirk Nowitzki take over the game.

While most won't be silly enough to expect another 29 point performance like Jefferson had early in the season against Dallas, it would certainly be nice to see the expensive acquisition show some willpower to drive the lane instead of deferring to teammates.

The same can be said for Roger Mason Jr., who has found himself inside Popovich's doghouse for much of the season with an inability to hit the shots that made people forget about Robert Horry during the 2008-2009 season.

While Matt Bonner can give the team a spark, he often finds himself as more of a liability, especially on defense. The occasional drive to the basket or tear-drop aside, a streaky Bonner is virtually useless to the team when he isn't making shots consistently.

Bonner is too slow to keep up with smaller players, and is outmatched against the big men of the NBA. If only his physicality matched his heart, Popovich would likely take a roster full of Matt Bonner.

For the 2009-2010 season, the Spurs have one of their deepest rosters to date, even compared to the championship years. The problem is, the roster is also one of the most inconsistent, a poison pill for a franchise that relies on consistency.

Although the game one loss is tough to swallow, the fact still remains that a win in game two would give the Spurs all the momentum and home court advantage heading back to San Antonio.

In order to be successful—and also get out of Popovich's doghouse—the Spurs will have to change a few things, none of which involve Dirk Nowitzki.

Although the stat line will call me absurd, I feel comfortable in claiming Nowitzki won't make 12 of 14 shots again. Ask any baseball player, and they'll tell you it always ends up averaging out in the end. He could easily score 36 again, but as long as he's forced to do so in 20-24 shots instead of 14, the Spurs will take their chances and hope to rebound on missed shots.

Slowing down Caron Butler and hovering closer to Jason Kidd will be imperative to force other players to step up and score for the Mavericks.

Possibly the most important factor was revealed by Erick Dampier himself. A heavy dose of Tim Duncan early may help the Spurs get some quick fouls on the Mavs' big men, forcing Carlisle to possibly play a lineup that would force Nowitzki to play more in the post, where he has at times struggled, earning him a label in some circles as a "soft" player.

Whatever the strategy may be, Popovich has made it clear that he expects more out of everyone not part of the Big Three.

For their sake, fans can only hope the team heard the message and took their vaccinations.

Brandon Land is the founder and sole writer for View from the Bench Sports, found at