By Jeff McDonald
Spurs guard Gary Neal would like to report missing the final four games of December worked wonders for his strained right calf.
But it did not.
Still bothered by soreness and stiffness two games into his return, Neal has devised another plan.
“Just got to find a way to play through it,” Neal said.
Neal, who is averaging a career high 10.7 points, went on the shelf after leaving a Dec. 23 win over Dallas complaining of discomfort in his calf.
He came back for the Spurs’ just-completed back-to-back against Milwaukee and New York, and is expected to be available for tonight’s game at the AT&T Center against Philadelphia. Neal’s condition is similar to the one that cost former Spurs guard Brent Barry three weeks during the 2007-08 season. Neal says Barry told him sitting out did little to improve his health then.
“That’s the whole dilemma,” Neal said. “I don’t want to miss a month, come back and it still hurts. Then you’ve got to worry about getting your conditioning back on top of it. If you’re not going to make it worse, you might as well play.”
Neal totaled 19 points and made 6 of 16 shots in two games off the bench since returning from the injured list. When not in the game, Neal sits with a heat pack strapped to his calf.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he will continue to look for ways to get Neal on the floor behind Tony Parker at point guard and Danny Green and Manu Ginobili at shooting guard.
That task might be a bit simpler if the sprained ankle Stephen Jackson suffered Thursday in New York keeps him out for long.
“We try to get (Neal) on the floor when we can,” Popovich said. “It’s been hard to get him as many minutes as he probably deserves.”