DENVER — On an empty courtroom contained in the Pepsi Center, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich defined that his squad cannot maintain out for a hero in mild of the revelation that star ahead Kawhi Leonard most likely would miss the remainder of the season.
“We’ve pretty much been that way, but this is the last 23 games of the season,” Popovich mentioned. “It doesn’t do any good to be wishing and hoping that somebody’s going to be added, and save the day, and all that silly stuff. These guys have got to go play for themselves and do what they do.”
San Antonio tried simply that Friday however dropped its fourth consecutive outing, falling 122-119 to the Denver Nuggets as the Spurs continued on the fifth sport of their annual rodeo street journey with out Leonard in tow.
While just a few Spurs cling to optimism relating to Leonard’s potential return, the collective mindset of the workforce is it wants to conduct enterprise as if the ahead is not coming again.
That’s not simple.
“We should have that attitude that he’s not going to come back, that’s for sure,” mentioned veteran level guard Tony Parker, who got here again in November from a ruptured quadriceps tendon suffered final season within the playoffs. “At the same time, we’re still going to be hopeful and positive. That’s just human. But at the same time, you have to be realistic.”
The actuality is the Spurs sought the very best tendon specialists on the planet to work with Parker as he recovered from quadriceps tendon surgical procedure, and Leonard all through his restoration course of from proper quadriceps tendinopathy. Their remedy proved efficient for Parker, however not Leonard, who continues to rehab, but nonetheless feels ache.
Leonard missed the primary 27 video games of the common season, and returned to play in 9 outings earlier than the Spurs sidelined the ahead indefinitely final month. Leonard has informed the group at varied phases of his rehabilitation course of that he wasn’t comfy along with his potential to play by way of the harm, and that the Spurs ought to shut him down.
The workforce’s medical employees had really cleared Leonard to return earlier than his Dec. 12 season debut at Dallas, in accordance to sources, who mentioned the ahead bears the burden of figuring out when he is ready to play once more.
Despite the notion the group is likely to be pushing Leonard to return to motion, that is not the case, in accordance to a number of sources, as nicely as Parker.
“It’s not the philosophy of the Spurs,” Parker mentioned. “Everybody knows that the Spurs, as an organization, will do anything for you to be safe, and to prolong your career. That’s the philosophy, not to rush anybody. So, he’ll come back whenever he thinks he’s ready.”
In the meantime, the Spurs will proceed to battle to preserve the NBA’s longest lively streak of consecutive postseason appearances (20) with out their most harmful weapon in Leonard, and a roster composed of six gamers age 30 or older, with three of them age 35 or older, and 5 contributors with three years or fewer of expertise.
“We definitely feel a certain sense of urgency,” veteran middle Pau Gasol mentioned. “We’re very aware of the circumstances. We’re playing hard, and we’ve given ourselves a chance. But for the last month or so when the schedule got a little tougher, the margin for error is really small. So we’ve got to really limit our mistakes. We’ve got to really be focused and understand the importance of little aspects of the game. We played well enough to win this game but didn’t. The pressure is going to be on, and those [teams] are right there breathing on our necks. Hopefully, we’ll get better and tighten up.”
The Spurs hit the ground at Denver with their 20th mixture of starters this season in Patty Mills, Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kyle Anderson and Dejounte Murray, as regular beginning capturing guard Danny Green was despatched again to the workforce’s resort simply earlier than tipoff, after coping with a bout of meals poisoning from consuming unhealthy spaghetti.
Heading into the loss at Denver, the Spurs had 11 gamers averaging at the very least 19 minutes per sport, and 13 gamers in all averaging double-digit minutes.
Mason Plumlee comes off the pick-and-roll and throws down the one-handed jam to seal it for the Nuggets.
“We can’t cry about it,” Aldridge mentioned. “We’ve been playing like this [with the injuries all year]. I don’t know where we’re going to be after tonight [in the standings], but we’ve been third in the West. The West is tough every night. So, we can’t cry about it; got to get tough and just make it happen.”
Veteran ahead Rudy Gay checked into Friday’s sport with four:39 left within the opening quarter, marking the primary time he has performed since Dec. 28, when the ahead suffered a heel harm that might knock him out of the following 23 video games. With Leonard unavailable, the Spurs might use Gay’s scoring to complement Aldridge’s contributions on offense. But Popovich says Gay will be on a minutes restriction as he works his method again into the lineup.
In all, the Spurs have missed a complete of 167 video games due to harm and relaxation, and veteran Manu Ginobili appeared to be the embodiment of this undermanned workforce scrapping for each breath down the stretch taking part in the NBA’s hardest remaining schedule. After the loss to the Nuggets, Ginobili walked down a hallway with members of the Spurs medical employees to the X-ray room contained in the Pepsi Center to have a have a look at his chest after struggling an harm making an attempt to take a cost from Will Barton.
Ginobili inhaled deeply, saying, “I can’t expand [my chest], so I can’t really breathe well,” earlier than slowly outlining San Antonio’s present state of affairs as it prepares Sunday to shut out the street journey at Cleveland, hoping to keep away from a fifth straight defeat.
“I think we are not getting lucky with personnel,” Ginobili mentioned. “We are not playing with all of our soldiers, and today we played a team that was very inspired. We get Rudy [Gay] back, and we lose Danny [Green]. Sometimes, it’s a little frustrating. It’s been a tough season. The previous two games before the break, we lost L.A. [Aldridge], our leader and best player. With all that, we are not playing that well. If it’s not the shots that are not falling, it’s the defense and we can’t stop them, or offensive rebounds. There’s always something. So I don’t think we are that far from getting over the hump. I can see the attitude, the extra pass, a lot of things that can get us over that hump. We’ve just got to keep fighting, working hard and sticking together; just being a rock-solid group.”