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Old 12-16-12, 10:42 PM
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De Colo making most of unexpected minutes

By Jeff McDonald

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Spurs did not lure rookie guard Nando De Colo from Europe expecting him to be an immediate contributor.

In fact, coach Gregg Popovich did not have any expectations of him at all.

“I purposely tried to keep a blank slate and observe and see what happened,” Popovich said.

De Colo’s season averages of 3.6 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists probably won’t turn heads in the Rookie of the Year race. With injuries besieging the Spurs on the wings, however, the slick-passing 25-year-old Frenchman has proven himself a valuable member of Popovich’s shortened bench.

De Colo has been getting early work in most of the Spurs’ games this month, a trend apt to continue tonight in Oklahoma City. In Saturday’s 103-88 rout of Boston, De Colo also helped close the game in the fourth quarter, playing alongside the starters.

He finished that game with eight points — including a back-breaking 3-pointer to put the Spurs ahead by 16 with 4:02 left — and also swiped a pair of steals.

“I just try to be ready every game and do my best for the team,” said De Colo, who spent the past three seasons in Spain. “When I have more time, it is fine for me.”

Minute by minute, De Colo has been filling Popovich’s blank slate with positive plays.

“He’s not going to jump out of the gym or be on ESPN for dunking,” Popovich said. “But he’s really gaining confidence and doing a good job for us.”

Manu doubtful: Guard Manu Ginobili traveled with the team to Oklahoma City but is listed as doubtful for tonight’s game with a left quadriceps contusion suffered against Boston.
He is expected to be re-evaluated after shootaround this morning.

Meanwhile, small forward Stephen Jackson — who has missed 14 games with a broken right pinkie — indicated via Twitter he might be cleared to rejoin the lineup in OKC.

Birth of a rivalry?: The Thunder knocked the Spurs from last year’s Western Conference finals in six games, perhaps sowing the seeds for a budding rivalry between the teams.

“It’s not like the Lakers or the Mavericks yet,” Parker said. “When I first arrived, the Lakers was a huge rivalry. (OKC) is starting to become a rivalry, but I can’t compare it to Dallas or the Lakers.”

The Spurs landed the most recent blow in the series Nov. 1, when Parker ruined OKC’s season opener with a buzzer-beating jumper good for an 86-84 victory at the AT&T Center.

“They’re always going to be one of those teams, we’re going to play them with a chip on our shoulder,” swingman Danny Green said. “I’m sure it won’t go away until we play them in the playoffs again.”

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