Bad Timing

We all know by now that an MRI revealed that Tim Duncan, who rolled his ankle Monday night when he landed on the foot of Golden States’ Ekpe Udoh, has suffered a grade-one or grade-two ankle sprain. Spurs GM R.C. Buford said Duncan’s ankle "looks good" structurally but stated that a time table for a return will not likely be set for at least another couple of days until the severity of the injury can be completely determined.

We’re also aware of Spurs fans sweeping reaction when seeing the greatest power forward of all time collapse to the court, gripping his foot. It could easily be summarized in one word but I promised the boss man that I would keep my posts clean. The mood in the locker room wasn’t exactly "flowers and lollipops" either. "Bad timing," said an exhausted Manu Ginobili. "Hopefully, it’s nothing really bad, but I saw him in pain and he’s not one of those guys that is going to pretend or do that if he’s not hurting."

Bad timing.

Manu couldn’t have selected a better phrase if he tried. One of the biggest assets the San Antonio Spurs have had in the corner all season has been their collective fortune when it comes to health. The biggest scare this season came when Parker suffered a strain to his lower leg that was originally thought to keep him out 2-4 weeks. Courtesy of a "foie gras and truffle" treatment, Parker returned sooner than expected, within two games, and the Spurs have been chugging along ever since. But now with the playoffs within a month’s view, the Spurs begin arguably the toughest stretch of the season when they travel west to face the Denver Nuggets, the first of eight straight teams with records over .500 and each vying for crucial playoff seeding.

After Monday's game, Spurs center Antonio McDyess spoke softer than usual, almost as if he was mourning the loss of his favorite dog. "Actually I was scared that he did real damage as in he broke it, fractured it, or something," McDyess said. "I was just happy to see it was a severe sprain because I actually that it was worse." If Dr. Elliott’s original prognosis of a two-week recovery holds true, Tim Duncan will likely return to the court on April 6th against the Sacramento Kings, the 79th game of the season. Even if the Spurs only managed a 4-4 record during Duncan’s [assumed length of] absence, the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers would have to go perfect in the same amount of games to pull within 2 and 3 games respectively in the overall standings. But with games against big men such as Nene, LaMarcus Aldridge (twice), Zach Randolph, Kevin Garnett, Luis Scola, and Al Horford over the next two weeks, the lead over both Chicago and Los Angeles seems to get a bit shaky. "That was the first thing going through my head: Could we lose a lot of games and give up the first spot?" McDyess said. "With Tim down, that's a big loss."

As doom and gloom as this all sounds, Spurs lead at the overall top seed is still safe. San Antonio still possesses its’ two big scoring engines in Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, both more than capable of carrying the team when called upon. The real tests will fall upon the Spurs’ bench, although a model of consistency throughout the season, has struggled of late to sustain any kind of positive performance. And regardless of how unfair this sounds, the next few weeks will define Tiago Splitter as player in the eyes of many Spurs fans. Tiago has played well over the past two games but those performances were against teams who will find themselves in the lottery room once again this season. Fortunately, Splitter won’t need to perform at the lofty expectations that Spurs fans placed on him earlier in the season but Tony Parker made the Spurs current situation crystal clear. "We can win without Timmy in the rest of the regular season and get that top seed. But we're not going anywhere in the playoffs without him."

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