As you probably already heard Tony Parker will be out for the next two games. Here's the official injury report:
Tony Parker will miss San Antonio's next two games, at Phoenix on 12/18 and at Golden State on 12/19, due to a right shin contusion. He suffered the injury in the second half of Monday night's Spurs-Clippers game. Parker will be reevaluated when the team returns to San Antonio at which point his status for Saturday night's Spurs-Thunder game will be determined.
It's probably nothing to worry about, as it seems like it was just a contusion. But it's better to err on the side of caution and I wouldn't be surprised if Parker missed another game or two after the couple he is slated to miss already. There is really no reason to take any risks this early in the season and with the Spurs doing well. It's definitely the best decision for the Spurs in the long run.
Unfortunately, Tony's absence could spell trouble for the team in the short term.
The starting lineup has been heavily dependant on Parker to avoid being a complete disaster on offense. With Danny Green struggling to get open looks (and often missing when he does), Splitter being a limited offensive player and Duncan and Leonard having trouble making shots, the only thing keeping the starters from being a huge negative on offense to start the season was the Wee Frenchman. Their stingy defense and Parker kept the starters afloat until the bench came in and created separation. Despite Duncan and Leonard looking better lately, the loss of Parker is still a huge blow to that unit.
Last season the starters with Joseph filling in for Parker scored a very good 104.5 points/100 possessions. But while the names are the same, the performances of the players have changed rather drastically, starting with Joseph himself. In the limited time he has been on the court after losing his spot to Mills, he has not looked improved and in fact seems to have regressed a bit. With the Spurs struggling to score even with Parker running things, it's not hard to imagine Joseph's lack of any elite skill on offense being exposed and hurting the team.
Grades for the Spurs' first quarter: Part 2
Stampler picks apart Ginobili, Parker, Leonard, Splitter, Green, Joseph and Mills in this, the second part of his grades for the first 20 games of the season.
A possible solution would be to change the starting lineup, including one of Boris Diaw or Manu Ginobili in place of Splitter or Green, respectively. They could inject some much needed shot creation next to Cory, Duncan and Leonard. But that would mean disrupting the bench unit that has performed so well so far, so I'm assuming that's not the route Gregg Popovich will decide to take, considering Parker could be back very soon. So in all likelihood, Joseph starts, as he has in the past when Parker was injured. Let's hope the starters defy expectations and at least keep the games close.
The other way to look at it, if you are feeling optimistic, is that it will provide an opportunity for an increased role for the rest of the rotation guys. Joseph will get a second look, but who might benefit the most from a Parker-less unit is Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi's ability to create shots in the half court, either for himself or others, has not developed as quickly as everyone would have wanted it to, but with an increased role and some freedom to figure things out, he could hopefully jump-start that progression.
The injury doesn't come at a good time, since Tiago Splitter is just coming back from a five-game absence of his own. But fortunately, Tim Duncan has mostly snapped out of his offensive funk, so he could handle a heavier scoring burden with Tony out. Manu Ginobili is also looking better and better so don't be surprised if he puts up some very good numbers while handing more responsibility on offense. And there's always the bench, which can be counted on to hit a few threes and extend leads.
It's hard to say if anything positive will come from this injury. We'll just have to wait and see. But as far as these things go, it could have been much worse. I think the Spurs will have a shot at winning the next two even without Tony. But if they lose, let's hope they can find something positive to build upon once he returns, like they've done in the past.