It's been a bad month of April for San Antonio. Gregg Popovich admits as much. But if there's one thing this team has more of than most other teams in the league, it's knowledge of the kind of animal they'll find come playoff time. They also still have an identity, one that hasn't been taken from them yet.
"We are ... who we are, so to speak. As trite as that sounds, we're not going to be very different between now and Sunday," Pop said prior to tip. "We'll be who we are on Sunday, as opposed to who we are today."
Never at a loss for some sort of a sense of humor, the Spurs' future Hall-of-Fame coach seemed calm and happy. Despite the issues this team has had, he can see the pieces slowly beginning to come back together. Manu Ginobili, who injured his right hamstring on March 29 against the Los Angeles Clippers, will make his return to action for the first time in about three weeks. His minutes will be "very" limited, Pop said. Manu hasn't had much opportunity to see the court in practice, either, given all the games and travel time.
"He's been working hard in the weight room and doing his rehab. He's been doing a little 1-on-1 with different people, so he's progressing," Pop said. "He's going to play a couple of minutes tonight, just to throw him out there and see how he feels.
"Just to get him, not much of a rhythm, but a little bit.
However small the amount, it's better than what he's had in recent memory. And as the final game of the regular season begins tonight, it's just about as far as the Spurs could afford to stretch out his period of rest. Ginobili is feeling better, and with the postseason beginning this weekend, San Antonio is feeling better in itself.
"There's not a team in the playoffs that isn't happy to start the playoffs," Pop said. "It's a long season."
If you've been watching this team over the last month or so, it's been a little too long. April 21 can't come soon enough.