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.
More from Spurs News
- Devin Vassell is the latest in the Spurs’ collection of silent assassins
- San Antonio Spurs: 5 Players to avoid in any LaMarcus Aldridge deal
- Is Gregg Popovich hiding Luka Samanic as a secret weapon?
- San Antonio Spurs News: More DeRozan trade talk from Chris Haynes
- Spurs fans show Dejounte Murray support, buy all the New Balance shoes
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
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).
— NBA (@NBA) December 21, 2017
Kyle Anderson puts on the moves! #GoSpursGo
— 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'
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.
— NBA (@NBA) December 17, 2017
Shooting from behind the arc can’t be forgotten, either:
— 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
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
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.
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.