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San Antonio Spurs: 5 Christmas gifts fans already received

By Rob Wolkenbrod
Dec 24, 2017, 1:00 AM CST
PORTLAND, OR - DECEMBER 20: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 exchanges high fives with Kyle Anderson #1 of the San Antonio Spurs during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on December 20, 2017 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OR - DECEMBER 20: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 exchanges high fives with Kyle Anderson #1 of the San Antonio Spurs during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on December 20, 2017 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
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SAN ANTONIO,TX – DECEMBER 18 : Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs scores in front of Austin Rivers #25 of the Los Angeles Clippers at AT&T Center on December 18, 2017 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 Cortes/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO,TX – DECEMBER 18 : Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs scores in front of Austin Rivers #25 of the Los Angeles Clippers at AT&T Center on December 18, 2017 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 Cortes/Getty Images)

The San Antonio Spurs provided fans gifts before Christmas came about.

‘Tis the season, San Antonio Spurs fans. It’s Sunday, Dec. 24, which means it’s Christmas Eve, with Christmas Day following it. These days are for gift giving, with families and friends exchanging gifts, eating food and celebrating.

Spurs fans received their gifts before this holiday, however, with many satisfying aspects of the 2017-18 season. that included surprises and moments that highlighted the first two months.

So, let’s celebrate Christmas and travel through the five gifts fans already received before the holiday:

5. Tony Parker’s return

The San Antonio Spurs dealt with a flurry of injuries in the 2017-18 season, even just two-plus months in. From Danny Green’s groin to Kyle Anderson’s knee (which looked worse when it happened), these ailments bugged the team’s first 30-plus games.

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Before them, there were severer injuries to deal with. It started in May.

Tony Parker tore his hamstring in the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs, which removed him from the postseason. At 35-years-old, it put his recovery timetable in question. That included rehabbing during the offseason, missing the preseason and sitting out over one month of this season.

However, in a November game vs. the Dallas Mavericks, Parker returned; he came back earlier than you’d expect someone of his age and experience. While the Spurs don’t have him at an All-Star level (and may never again), he provides a role player presence at point guard, playing between 20-25 minutes and supplementing the work of the stars.

The Frenchman’s early return was the gift in this situation. He could have sat out until January or February. Instead, he’ll be around for the duration of the season and the playoffs, if healthy. It will only help against the tough Western Conference teams, even on older legs, as he eyes another NBA championship.

Next: Kyle Anderson's breakout season

San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs

4. Kyle Anderson’s breakout season

From the start of the 2017-18 season, Kawhi Leonard’s quad injury was known, but when he would return wasn’t. That placed Kyle Anderson as the full-time starter, a role he never had in his previous three seasons in the NBA.

Well, Christmas came early for the Spurs, who received stellar production from Anderson at the small forward spot. It wasn’t near the elite numbers that Leonard put up in 2016-17, but enough to offset some of the scoring, with multiple double-digit point games and a handful of double-doubles. He often played No. 2 or No. 3 in the scoring pecking order, too.

The play of the UCLA product was a delight, as he provided the team a gift, rather than a liability, in the starting lineup. That was on both ends of the floor, even if he didn’t play flashy or have a highlight-reel play (despite back-to-back games of third-quarter buzzer-beaters before Christmas).

Kyle Anderson beats the 3rd quarter buzzer!@trailblazers lead the @spurs 81-79 with 7 minutes to go in Q4! pic.twitter.com/Z1H3oB23xL

— NBA (@NBA) December 21, 2017

Kyle Anderson puts on the moves! #GoSpursGo

?: @NBAonTNT pic.twitter.com/3BAHMPxPdu

— NBA (@NBA) December 22, 2017

Leonard returned, however, so that put Anderson on the bench. It doesn’t mean he won’t be a contributor toward a potential Western Conference Finals run, as he potentially earned the trust of head coach Gregg Popovich. Especially in high-stakes moments and when an injury hits the lineup.

Will Anderson’s gift continues to give in 2018?

Next: 'Manu Magic'

PORTLAND, OR – DECEMBER 20: Manu Ginobili #20 and Patty Mills #8 of the San Antonio Spurs hug after the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on December 20, 2017 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OR – DECEMBER 20: Manu Ginobili #20 and Patty Mills #8 of the San Antonio Spurs hug after the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on December 20, 2017 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

3. “Manu Magic”

It was arguably Christmas in July, when Manu Ginobili announced he would return for a 16th NBA season. His status wasn’t known for the previous two months, due to being cryptic about his post-Western Conference Finals status in May.

At 40-years-old, Ginobili’s no longer the player he was in the 2000’s or the early 2010’s. Though he’s still around for moments that make you say “Wow, how did he do that?” That’s the “Manu Magic,” that’s taken over.

Even at his age, this flare for the dramatic remains. Just look at his game-winners against the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks. The latest one saw the Argentinian star fly through the defense and go straight to the hoop.

The @Spurs Complete AMAZING Comeback With ANOTHER @ManuGinobili Game Winner! #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/Jzv2Xkr3Uu

— NBA (@NBA) December 17, 2017

Shooting from behind the arc can’t be forgotten, either:

Ahead of tonight's @Spurs action… we take a closer look at @ManuGinobili's recent game-winners! #NBABreakdown

? #GoSpursGo x #TakeNote ⏰ 10:30pm/et ? @NBAonTNT pic.twitter.com/WqV7cJyQFC

— NBA (@NBA) December 21, 2017

There should be more from where this came from, as Ginobili plays a part in another ageless performance. It’s a gift that’s lasted longer than just Christmas 2017, spanning for the past three or four seasons of older age and questions about retirement. The 2017-18 season could be the end of this, but that won’t be known until the summer of 2018, so let’s enjoy this Spurs legend’s play and dramatics, before he enters the Hall of Fame.

Next: Kawhi Leonard's return

DALLAS, TX – DECEMBER 12: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against the Dallas Mavericks on December 12, 2017 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX – DECEMBER 12: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against the Dallas Mavericks on December 12, 2017 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)

2. Kawhi Leonard’s return

Kawhi Leonard had the most cryptic injury of anyone on the San Antonio Spurs. Maybe in the entire NBA. Sometime before the Silver and Black Scrimmage on Sep. 30 (the day the Spurs announced the ailment), he hurt his right quad. How severe and the circumstances around how it happened weren’t revealed, as the team kept it secret.

The weeks followed, however, and few updates were provided on Leonard’s status. This picked up in the final week of his rehab. Otherwise, it was a quiet front.

Before Leonard returned on Dec. 12, the Spurs were well over .500, exceeding 10 games. It was one of the NBA’s biggest surprises, as the team, on paper, looked “doomed” without him. That wasn’t the case and led to a spot near the top of the Western Conference. So, when the Klaw returned vs. the Mavericks, it was an All-Star caliber piece to join an already productive puzzle.

In the games Leonard appeared in, as of Sunday, the Spurs were 2-3. Not a great stretch but it’s a process of ironing out the kinks and getting the team’s superstar into game shape. This may not happen for a while, as he remains on a minutes restriction and sits in at least half of a back-to-back.

There are still steps to go before Leonard plays 30-plus minutes and scores 20 points. Either way, it’s still a delight to see him healthy and on the court.

Next: LaMarcus Aldridge's All-Star play

PORTLAND, OR – DECEMBER 20: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs looks on during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on December 20, 2017 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OR – DECEMBER 20: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs looks on during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on December 20, 2017 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

1. LaMarcus Aldridge’s All-Star caliber play

Around the 2017 NBA Draft, LaMarcus Aldridge’s days on the San Antonio Spurs appeared to be numbered. He was the subject of trade rumors and unhappiness, which subsided after the draft but remained a topic as the summer continued.

However, before the 2017 preseason started, Aldridge floated into the good graces of the organization. He had a well-publicized heart-to-heart talk, with Gregg Popovich, and signed a three-year contract extension. It was a surprise, given the tense relationship between both sides, but it’s something that will last into the next decade, with the 32-year-old as a member of this franchise.

So, it’s safe to say the production he provided in the first 30-plus games was an even bigger surprise.

Aldridge as criticized for his offensive work in his first two Spurs seasons. That escalated in the 2017 NBA Playoffs, when Kawhi Leonard injured his ankle. Attention turned toward the Texas product to pick up the slack, but he didn’t and was critiqued by Popovich. 

Seven months later, a remarkable turnaround was completed by Aldridge, who stepped up when Leonard was hurt. He led the way in points, nearing totals from his Portland days, and being the alpha dog of the offense. This wasn’t prevalent in his first two seasons, so his newfound aggressive style became the backbone of the Spurs’ hot start to the season, which kept them in the top three of the Western Conference.

Next: Top 25 players in Spurs history

Without Aldridge’s play during Leonard’s absence, who knows where the Spurs would be? There wasn’t another scorer to carry the load. Not even a rehabbing Rudy Gay or an aging Pau Gasol. So, this made it the best gift of all in the 2017-18 season. Beyond the return of the team’s superstar.

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