It started with Tiago Splitter, who separated his right shoulder early this month against the Los Angeles Clippers. Then a fractured left index finger Jan. 12 against the Minnesota Timberwolves shelved Danny Green for about four weeks.
Now the San Antonio Spurs have to go on without Kawhi Leonard, who fractured his right ring finger Wednesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. There’s no estimated time he’ll be out, but given it’s a similar injury to Green’s, it may be weeks. This brings the number of starters missing from the lineup due to injuries at three.
This clearly isn’t good news at all for the Spurs. Often noted as a team that likes to brush off the beginning of the season as an adjustment process, the hobbled Spurs will now have to drag into the nine-game Rodeo Road Trip, a trip that’s supposed to ingrain stability in the rotation.
Splitter had played consistently up until his injury, but Green and Leonard are different cases. Green hasn’t made any significant progress from last season and it looks more and more that his success in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat was a fluke. Leonard’s stat sheets haven’t shown much improvement either, as the team has tried to expand his offensive game and allow him to create his shot more, which he wasn’t used to last season. His 3-point shooting has gone down nearly 5 percent as well.
That leaves the rotation looking pretty thin. Down a post presence, a 3-point shooter and the key perimeter defender, the Spurs – who play Miami again on Sunday – will need all the help it can get. Huge minutes are coming for Marco Belinelli, Manu Ginobili and even the younger players such as Nando De Colo and Malcolm Thomas.
Belinelli is able to handle more minutes, but with Ginobili there’s more caution when it comes to monitoring playing time. De Colo has struggled so far this season in San Antonio, but perhaps knowing that the team needs him will ease his mind from thinking of trying to do too much. Thomas played well against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday, but that’s the only game he’s played all season, so not very much to work with.
With quite a few missing players, the Spurs could tap into the trade market to see who’s out there and can supply short-term and long-term benefits. The team was rumored to be more involved in trade talk this season and this could be what pulls the trigger. However, in order to acquire someone of decent value to the Spurs, the team would have to send back multiple players and/or assets, which would put them with an even shorter roster.
San Antonio often looks to the Austin Toros to see who the team can grab for a period of time, but there have been no reports of interest in prospects currently. Josh Howard may be given his chance to revive his career, but that’s still a reach.
This season is raising a lot of questions for the Spurs, especially considering the team doesn’t have a great record against the other contending teams. This is bound to just raise the doubts even more.