Things seemingly keep getting harder in San Antonio before they get easier, but perhaps no team is better built to deal with the constant onslaught of injuries than the Spurs. Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker are still on “injury management”, and now Leonard is also suffering from a tear in his non-shooting shoulder (although it is not expected to keep him out for long). Rudy Gay is dealing with retrocalcaneal bursitis in his healthy heel, and Danny Green has been dealing with a nagging groin injury for some time now.
Through all the injuries and inconsistent line-ups and rotations, the Spurs are still finding ways to win, mostly on the backs of their veterans. LaMarcus Aldridge is having a renascence year, leading the Spurs in scoring, on defense, and arguably outdoing even his best days in Portland. He has developed some amazing high-low chemistry with Pau Gasol, who is making it hard for critics of his contract to attack too much lately.
However, if only due to age vs. production, perhaps the most impressive Spur this season has been Manu Ginobili. The 40-year-old swingman is still somehow getting to the rim and shooting the third-best rate from two (.542) of his illustrious career, all while playing two more minutes per game than last year. Despite shooting a career-low from three (.324), he has already hit three times as many clutch threes as last season, and two those came last night in a last-second loss.
Even better, it was Manu’s second-straight 20+ point game coming off the bench, both in less than 30 minutes - all NBA records for 40-year-olds. Even though this season has had its frustrating times - like the Spurs inability to get healthy, win on the road, and put together extended winnings streaks - Manu remains a joy to watch and always manages to bring out the positive in everything. Just when it seems like he has given us everything, he comes back with more. No wonder he has droves of fans not just in San Antonio, but at every destination. Boo your hearts out, Knicks fans.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com - 5 (last week: 5)
Kawhi Leonard was starting to look more like himself last week, registering eight steals and seven deflections in wins over the Knicks and Suns. The Spurs have allowed less than a point per possession in the eight games he’s played in (compared to 111 in the last four games he’s missed) and just 95 per 100 with him on the floor. But now Leonard is dealing with a partial tear in his left shoulder which will, at best, keep him from being at his best for the foreseeable future. We still don’t know how good this version of the Spurs can be (or if we’ll ever got a chance to find out), though we’re thankful for more Manu Ginobili, who made more clutch threes in their loss in Portland on Sunday (two) than he made all of last season (one).
Pace: 96.6 (28) OffRtg: 105.2 (13) DefRtg: 101.6 (2) NetRtg:+3.6 (5)
David Aldridge, NBA.com - 4 (last week: 3)
(Note: this is about Brad Pitt bidding on and winning a $40,000 “exclusive experience” with the San Antonio Spurs at a Hatian relief benefits dinner. It will be interesting to see what that entails and if we ever hear about it.)
ESPN Staff - 6 (last week: 5)
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Vince Carter is the only other player at least 40-years-old to score at least 20 points off the bench in a game in NBA history. With 26 points Sunday against the Blazers, Manu Ginobili has now done it in back-to-back games.
Kenny Ducey, Sports Illustrated - 6 (last week: 6)
If you don’t know wrestling, then this analogy will miss you, but to me Manu Ginobili kind of reminds me of Chris Jericho. Definitely one of the greats of his generation, and out of all of his accomplishments, the most impressive may be his longevity. Still wowing us with his athleticism at 40, much like Jericho is still doing lionsaults and putting on great matches late into his career.
Look, I dunno. I’m just still amazed by this dude. Every night. The Kawhi injury really stinks, but they were a top-five team before he returned from injury, and with Ginobili playing this well they can remain in that conversation through his newest one.
Chris Barnwell, CBS Sports - 6 (last week: 1)
Kawhi Leonard has a partial tear in his shoulder. It’s supposed to be nothing serious and the Spurs hope to have him back soon, but it’s just disappointing to see such a great player unable to stay healthy. For now, the LaMarcus Aldridge show continues.
AJ Neuharth-Keusch, USA Today - 5 (last week: 6)
San Antonio suffered another setback in the injury department Friday, with Kawhi Leonard going down with a partial tear in his left shoulder. This time, though, the Spurs don’t expect their perennial MVP candidate to miss an extended period of time.
You may now commence with you weekly discussions of how pointless power rankings are.