As part of the yearly tradition, the San Antonio will head out this week on its Rodeo Road Trip consisting of nine games this season.
The level of talent on this year’s road trip isn’t as strong as normal, as only the last three games of the road trip are teams above .500. However, those games are bound to shake up the Western bracket, since those are against the Los Angeles Clippers, Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns.
Though this trip is meant to solidify rotation spots on the team, this year the team will have to have the mindset that this is just like any other trip. Without Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Manu Ginobili, the most the team could do is test out those open holes with other players deep on the roster. And the team did exactly that.
The Spurs waived Othyus Jeffers to sign veteran guard Shannon Brown. It appears the Spurs are going away from trying to replace Leonard temporarily and are looking at any firepower they can get at the guard position. Brown is an undersized shooting guard, but he’s very athletic and has a chance to carve out a small role on the team.
Last season, Brown averaged 10.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists with the Phoenix Suns, but was part of the trade that sent Marcin Gortat to the Wizards, who promptly waived him. He’s not the greatest defender out there, but his athleticism gives him a chance to blossom on a team that doesn’t have much athleticism at all.
Aside from Brown, another change that occurred this week was the return of Tiago Splitter. Coming off his shoulder injury, Splitter put in 17 minutes of work against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday. He looked a bit rusty and finished with only two points and four rebounds in 17 minutes, but he was able to move around like his usual self and should be back to normal soon.
Looking ahead, the team will first take on the New Orleans Hornets on Monday, then follow it up with the Washington Wizards on Wednesday. Anthony Davis is always a hassle to opposing teams, and it’ll be interesting to see how the Spurs fare against the Wizards backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, especially with the depleted backcourt as it is.
The second half of this week consists of the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday and Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday. The Nets have bounced back well in 2014 and have gotten into the playoff picture, while the Bobcats are right behind them in the eighth spot. The Spurs need to take advantage of these sub-.500 teams and not put themselves at risk of losing homecourt advantage in the playoffs.
It’s difficult to shrug off this week since it included the first three-game losing streak of the year so far, but the Spurs are just in a rough spot right now with injuries. The team appears to be returning on the right track though, so now at least there’s a post presence and another scoring option in the backcourt.
The 97-90 road loss against the Houston Rockets was overshadowed by the Ginobili injury that occurred in the third quarter. His hamstring strain is going to keep him out at least a couple more weeks, leaving the team to look around at other options to fill those minutes.
In its first full game without any of the four injured at the time, the Spurs fell to the Chicago Bulls 96-86 at home. Perhaps starting Nando De Colo and Jeffers wasn’t such a good idea. The team struggled to keep the motor running in the third quarter, which is when the Bulls took advantage. The team built a 13-point lead early in the fourth quarter and never looked back.
At least there was one win this week, which came at home in the 95-93 victory against the Kings. The team was just happy Splitter was back to relieve Duncan of some of the defensive duties. Brown also looked decent in his debut and didn’t make any notable mistakes. He’s already taken De Colo’s minutes, so at least he has that going for him.
Another bright spot to this week was Tony Parker‘s selection to the All-Star Game as a Western Conference reserve, the sixth time he’s been on the team. He’ll be going alone, though, since Tim Duncan wasn’t chosen to make a return. His season hasn’t been quite as rejuvenated as it was last year.