Unfortunately for the San Antonio Spurs, injuries mean going back to the basics.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had the full team healthy, yes.” That’s what Danny Green told MySanAntonio.com on Dec. 26, before the San Antonio Spurs played the Brooklyn Nets. Everyone was healthy. Even Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker played, without the dreaded “return from injury management” label next to their names, at least for one night.
Then came Thursday’s game vs. the New York Knicks.
Leonard, hours before the game, was ruled out for the “injury management” reason. The Spurs didn’t play him after fewer than two days off since returning from a quad ailment, so this wasn’t a surprise. However, by the end of the night, the team had two players go down.
The potentially minor case was Green himself. Throughout the second half, he hobbled down the court but remained in the game. Head coach Gregg Popovich pulled him in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, after the former Tar Heel showcased his red-hot shooting from behind the arc.
Could this be a flare-up of Green’s groin injury? This caused him to miss four of the previous eight games, including Tuesday’s Nets game. If so, look for Popovich to rest his starting shooting guard. Along with New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, it would give him three days off, before returning on Tuesday, Jan. 2 vs. the Knicks.
The scarier situation was Rudy Gay’s injury. During the third quarter, he battled for a ball under the basket, jumped twice and appeared to hurt his right foot. He immediately went toward the locker room. The official diagnosis was “right heel soreness,” an aggravation of a prior ailment and, according to Jabari Young, Gay will have an MRI on this Friday.
Both ailments are the latest for an injury-ravaged Spurs team in 2017-18. Whether it was Leonard and Parker’s rehab, Green’s groin, Joffrey Lauvergne’s ankle, Derrick White’s wrist or Kyle Anderson’s sprained MCL, the Silver and Black worked through it all and managed to remain No. 3 in the Western Conference.
Via the “next man up” system, players like Bryn Forbes, Brandon Paul, Dejounte Murray and Anderson (before he was hurt) stepped up and provided supplementary production. That’s while LaMarcus Aldridge returned to All-Star form and could be headed toward his sixth midseason game.
Will these players pick up the pieces, again, if Green and Gay, especially, miss extended time? This time it will be with the Klaw, even if his playing schedule remains scaled back and spaced out. Without him, though, the Spurs proved to have the pieces to pick up the slack and keep this team competitive. Will this happen again?