|2011-12 Team Rating|
|6th Overall||16th Overall|
Stats through Feb. 16
Tim Duncan's minutes are being limited to a career-low 27 per game, but it's kept him fresh, effective and sometimes still dominant. DeJuan Blair and Tiago Splitter make a nice combo-center in middle.
Manu Ginobili missed 22 games after breaking a finger. But Tony Parker stepped in like a World's Strongest Man competitor and carried the team in his absence, averaging a career high in assists and earned an All-Star berth.
This is no longer the steel-trap, squeeze-the-life-out-of-you like-a-boa constrictor defense that won four championships. Quite often, the Spurs are hanging on for dear life.
Rookie forward Kawhi Leonard, guard Gary Neal and swingman Danny Green have all had their moments. But the one who's shined brightest off the bench is Splitter, making presence felt in paint at both ends of the floor.
There's not a better-prepared, more intensely-driven, adjusting-on-the-fly-in-games, motivator, cajoler and X-and-O drawer in the game than Pop. Enough said.
Remember last spring when the No. 8 seeded Grizzlies rose up and smacked the No.1 seed right off the faces of the Spurs? Remember when Tony Parker went home to Paris and told a French newspaper that the Spurs days as contenders were over? Remember just six weeks ago when Ginobili reached out for a steal in Minnesota and broke a finger that seemed to be another sign of doom?
So here are the Spurs, sitting in the upper half of the Western Conference playoff bracket, aging on the calendar, but finding a way to keep the pressure on those young legs of the front-running Thunder.
This is a delicate and interesting balancing act that Popovich is playing, doing his darnedest to keep a lid on the minutes of the soon-to-be-36-year-old Duncan, but unafraid to ride Parker like a rented mule through the first half of the season while Ginobili mended.
Splitter, who excelled in Europe, is learning and growing in the middle and Leonard shows occasional flashes of why the Spurs traded valued backup point guard George Hill to Indiana to get him.
The unexpected consequence of Ginobili's injury could be that he's fresh for the playoffs. If the Spurs are healthy come springtime, they're a force to contend.
-- Fran Blinebury
Explanation of Marking System
|Golden State Warriors||C-|
|Los Angeles Clippers||B|
|Los Angeles Lakers||B-|
|New Jersey Nets||D|
|New Orleans Hornets||F|
|New York Knicks||C+|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||A|
|Portland Trail Blazers||B-|
|San Antonio Spurs||A|