Spurs in Trouble?
I usually frown upon jumping to conclusions about the NBA season before an entire month has passed. There are so many variables that you have to consider, like teams getting used to playing with each other or slow starts and other things of that nature. But right now, in the second week of November, the Spurs should be a little concerned.
This really isn’t about their record, not exactly anyway. While it’s true that the Spurs’ four losses in five games is not up to their standards, I think the one win tells us the most about how their season is going so far.
Back on November 5, the Spurs went on the road and won a double-OT thriller against the Timberwolves. Never mind that the Wolves are probably going to finish in the lower third of the conference, since every team in the NBA has a chance at getting a W on any given night. You can even overlook the 106 points that the Spurs allowed in regulation, a departure from their past defensive play.
Notice this, though: three players showed up offensively in that game, four if you’d like to set the "showed up offensively" bar at four points or higher. I prefer to leave it at about 10-15 in a 58-minute game. Tony Parker had 55 (!), Tim Duncan had 30 and Roger Mason 26. If you’re keeping track at home, that’s 111 of the Spurs’ 129 points. They took 78 of 97 shots. That’s 86% of the points and 80% of the shots by three people against the defensive juggernaut that is the Minnesota Timberwolves. For the record, Michael Finley did manage nine shots, though he hit only one.
So what that tells me is not only are the Spurs having trouble scoring, they have players who aren’t scorers, who won’t even put up shots in a game where scoring is a necessary thing. This isn’t quite a surprise, since the Spurs have long depended on the trio of Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili to get them through the Western Conference. But they had role players before, guys who were contributing. Now, it looks as if the team is just waiting for the predetermined guys to put in a great performance each night.
Parker and Duncan had been picking up the slack for the injured Ginobili up to Friday’s game when Parker went down with an injury of his own. Now it appears that Duncan will have to man the ship all alone. He’s more than capable of doing this, but he was averaging nearly 40 minutes per game before. That number will probably have to increase if the Spurs are to remain competitve. And at 32, TD isn’t the youngest guy around. It makes you wonder if the added minutes will spell injury farther down the road.
Parker and Ginobili are due back in mid-December, give or take a week depending on the healing process. Although it’s possible that Ginobili could return sooner because of his progress and because of the needs of the team, it appears that the Spurs will have to face Houston twice, Denver twice, Detroit, Dallas and Utah with a depleted roster. No rumors of a Antonio McDyess signing or Eddy Curry trade will soften that news. Even the two matchups with Memphis and dates with Chicago and Sacramento are no longer games that you can say the Spurs should win.
The road to the playoffs in the West just got a lot rougher for the Spurs. In a conference where a .500 record will likely have you sitting at home come May, the Spurs will very likely have to dig themselves out of a very large hole just to reach that point. But the Spurs are a championship organization with veteran players and they will probably figure out a way to keep themselves in the conversation of NBA relevance. It’s doubtful that they’ve reached panic mode.
But they should probably be at least a little bit concerned.