Let's go back a season, back to when the Spurs were the reigning NBA champions.
It's Game One of the first round, against the Phoenix Suns. Manu Ginobili jams his left ankle. Prior to this game, he was playing with a long list of injuries—an injured groin (end of the regular season) and an injured calf (earlier in the game).
Then, in the playoff series against Los Angeles, he re-injures his bum ankle. He continued to play, despite advice from teammates and coach Gregg Popovich. Yet if the Spurs don't have Ginobili, they don't have good chances of winning. The Spurs ended up losing the series in a tragic five-game effort.
Now, let's fast-forward a bit to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Ginobili was, as expected, elected to the Argentine National Basketball Team (Manu led his team to Gold in Athens in 2004). He felt up to playing, and did. The Spurs gave him the OK, as playing for your country is a huge honor.
Ginobili did what he wanted to do least—sprain his left ankle. As the saying goes—when it rains, it pours. Ginobili underwent surgery to correct a posterior impingement of his left ankle. (Despite its star player being out, Argentina defeated Lithuania for the Bronze medal). He's projected to be back in December.
Now, lets talk about his fast-break pal, TP9 (Tony Parker).
Parker scored a career-high 55 points in a double-overtime victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, joining only Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson in recording at least 55 points and 10 assists in one game. After this night, Parker led the league in scoring. His total points tied George Gervin for third on the Spurs all-time career point total list.
Just two days after going wild on the Wolves, with 2:06 remaining in the first quarter, Tony drove to the basket and rolled his ankle in the process. He suffered a lateral ankle sprain, which means two to four weeks out for Tony. This would place him back around the same time as his teammate Ginobili.
What does this mean? Well, it means a number of things. The Spurs have a deep grave to dig themselves out of for the month of November, with still 11 games to go with only one of their Big Three—Tim Duncan.
This will give the rest of the bench a huge opportunity to step up, as Roger Mason Jr. has. He slipped into third for scoring on the Spurs.
George Hill has proved himself as a strong point guard with experience beyond his years. He has shown great defense and excellent shooting ability (55% FG, 45% 3PT and 81% FT).
And less-played players, such as Desmond Farmer and Matt Bonner, have the chance to gain a lifetime of experience, playing among the most elite of veterans.
Yet, most importantly, it means rejuvenation. Come playoff time, unlike most players, these two wont be worn out or tired. They will outrun and score others players who can't keep up. As NBA analyst Stephen Smith said:
"Manu Ginobili's been out. Tony Parker is just about to be out. You gotta understand because they're the players they are, this is something that could ultimately work for San Antonio's advantage. Because guess what? If those players come back 100 percent, having weeks off—or months, in the case of Ginobili—their bodies are going to be fresh, they're not going to be fatigued come April/May/June. If these guys are 100 percent with Tim Duncan, it doesn't matter whether they're on the road or at home. They can beat anybody, any place, anywhere, any time."
That's up to you to decide.
When the West gets tough, the Spurs get tougher.