The Spurs didn't have as bad a week as their 2-2 record might indicate. Considering they played against the Clippers, Thunder, Pelicans and Rockets and were without Tony Parker for two games and Kawhi Leonard for all four, it's even possible to call the stretch a success. San Antonio is in survival mode until the year ends, the schedule gets easier and the players out with injury return. There's even good news on that front, as Pop provided this update on Parker:
We'll just see how his body works through that. But it's not going to be a very long time. These four days were important for him.
Patty Mills made his season debut, bringing the Spurs closer to having all of their players available. Mills didn't look quite right -- which is completely understandable considering how long he's been out. But he still offers the team a way to navigate the Parker-less stretch without forcing Cory Joseph to play too many minutes and Manu Ginobili to fill an oversized role. When Tony returns, Pop will have exactly the type of problem every coach loves to have: finding minutes for everyone that deserves them. The only cloud still looming over the Spurs is Kawhi Leonard's health.
Even with the uncertainty surrounding the condition of Leonard's hand, the light at the end of the tunnel is finally starting to look closer. Only three of the next ten games are against sub .500 teams but the Spurs will get two days off three times in that span, which should help the older players remain fresh and allow Leonard some more time to heal without missing too many games. The worst part of the season might be in the rear view mirror.
Of course our regular batch of experts might disagree with that optimistic outlook. There's only one way to find out.
Marc Stein from ESPN (Spurs rank: 9. Last week's rank: 10)
The Spurs' lives aren't supposed to get complicated until the Rodeo Trip every February. Instead they're 7-9 in December with two games to go in a month containing no less than seven back-to-backs. The champs are 12-4 when Timmy, Tony, Manu and Kawhi all play; 7-9 when at least one is missing.
Mark J. Spears of Yahoo Sports (Spurs rank: 11. Last week's rank: 10)
The injury-plagued Spurs got a much-needed boost with the return of guard Patty Mills. Spurs players have totaled 94 missed games this season because of injuries.
USA Today (Spurs rank: 12. Last week's rank: 10)
New Year resolution: Convince Tim Duncan to come back. He still is the best player on the team. Why not play a few more years?
John Schuhmann from NBA.com (Spurs rank: 9. Last week's rank: 12)
Though the travel hasn't been too terrible, the Spurs are in the middle of their fourth five-games-in-seven-nights stretch over the last month. So they're happy to have Patty Mills back, happy to have picked up a couple of offensive wins against the Clippers and Rockets last week, and happy to be playing just two games in the first eight days of January.
Matt Moore from CBSSports (Spurs rank: 13. Last week's rank: 14)
Even though I would maintain it was temporary, I had my shovel ready to bury the Spurs. Had the plot picked out, the gravestone engraved, a strong eulogy with a Kipling quote picked out. Then, after losing to the Pelicans and Thunder in a matter of days, they beat the Rockets. Spurs, man. Spurs.