Backcourt injuries piling up for Spurs
It took six games, but the Curse of the Spurs’ Starting Small Forward finally struck Danny Green when he left Saturday’s overtime win over Memphis with a tight left hamstring.
At practice Monday, Green joined Kawhi Leonard (strained left quadriceps) and Stephen Jackson (fractured right pinkie) in the trainers’ room.
In addition, Gary Neal — who joined the starting lineup at shooting guard when Green shifted to small forward — missed the workout with a sore left Achilles.
The injuries piling up in the backcourt have left Spurs coach Gregg Popovich pondering drastic options for Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee at the AT&T Center.
“You and I are probably going to play on the perimeter, probably,” Popovich said, motioning to a nearby reporter.
Note to fantasy basketball aficionados: Should it come to that, you might want to start Bucks guards Monta Ellis (18.7 points per game) and Brandon Jennings (16.5).
“I’m pretty concerned about Wednesday,” Popovich said. “We’ll have to see what the status is for Danny and Gary.”
If there’s any bright spot in the timing of the Spurs’ latest backcourt injuries, it’s that they come during a soft spot in the schedule.
With three days off after Saturday’s victory, there is a chance either Green or Neal (or both) could be cleared to play against Milwaukee.
Monday, the Spurs had just four perimeter players available for practice and had to recall rookie Nando De Colo from Austin after a one-game stint in the Development League to get to that number.
So hobbled were the Spurs for the session that perpetually banged-up shooting guard Manu Ginobili joked: “I was the healthy one.”
Though Ginobili was looking forward to the team’s first full-throttle practice session in more than a month, he understood the need to err on the side of rehabilitation.
“It’s wise at this point to let them recover,” Ginobili said. “We couldn’t have a practice like we expected, with scrimmaging and everything. Health is always the main concern.”
Leonard, the team’s preferred starter at small forward, has missed nine games with a condition often called “jumper’s knee” in his left leg.
He has not played since a Nov. 15 loss to the New York Knicks and is expected to miss at least the rest of the Spurs’ homestand, which ends Friday against Houston.
Jackson replaced Leonard in the starting lineup in a win over Denver on Nov. 17, but he broke the little finger on his shooting hand two nights later against the L.A. Clippers. He is still at least two weeks away from returning.
If Green and/or Neal can’t play against the Bucks, Popovich will have to further jigger his already makeshift lineup.
Boris Diaw, the Spurs’ starting center for the first five games of the season, could be the new starting small forward. Ginobili might see additional time there. James Anderson, signed out of the Development League two weeks ago, might see his minutes skyrocket.
“We’ll have to adjust and make an extra effort,” Ginobili said.
At times like this, a versatile player such as Diaw comes in especially handy. A 6-foot-8 Swiss Army knife, Diaw began chipping in at small forward during the Spurs’ recently completed six-game road trip.
Though primarily known as a frontcourt player in the NBA, Diaw has spent several summers playing on the perimeter for the French national team.
He isn’t as good a 3-point shooter as Green or Neal, but Diaw has buried 17 of 31 attempts (54.8 percent) from long range since joining the Spurs in March.
“It’s a different role, for sure,” Diaw said. “But I’ve done it before.”
Whoever Popovich tabs as his next starting small forward would be wise to opt for the supplemental insurance, lest the Curse of the Spurs’ Starting Small Forward continues.
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