Resting Spurs in no rush to start West semifinals
The San Antonio Spurs fretted all season about not getting
Now they might get a little too much.
Dominating Utah in a four-game sweep reasserted the top-seeded
Spurs as a front-running contender for a fifth NBA championship,
but quickly ousting the Jazz has also left San Antonio with
potentially plenty of time to kill while waiting for the Western
”We just want to keep our rhythm and keep our conditioning as
best we can,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Wednesday.
The Spurs will play either Memphis or the Los Angeles Clippers,
who led that series 3-1 heading into Wednesday night. Regardless
how long that series goes, the Spurs aren’t likely to host Game 1
until Saturday at the earliest and Tuesday at the latest.
San Antonio finished off the Jazz on Monday. The Spurs practiced
Wednesday for the first time since then, and guard Manu Ginobili
expressed no qualms about taking an extended break following a
lockout-shortened season that the Spurs ended by playing 16 games
in 23 days.
Far as Ginobili is concerned, the Grizzlies and Clippers can
take their time.
”I think I prefer a long series. Whoever wins gets a little
more tired,” Ginobili said.
One upside of the layoff is that the Spurs worked in 5-on-5
practices Wednesday for the first time since the All-Star break.
Yet the time off also puts Popovich in an ironic predicament after
the NBA coach of the year so obsessively managed minutes,
particularly those of his Big Three. Tim Duncan, Ginobili and Tony
Parker were twice benched this season while the Spurs boasted
11-game winning streaks, simply because Popovich didn’t want to
wear them out.
Those winning streaks predictably ended both times, but Popovich
ended the season getting what he wanted: everyone healthy. Now the
challenge is keeping the rust off.
It’s an issue microphones caught the Spurs grappling with on the
court even during the Jazz series. When Popovich first tried
sitting Parker for good during a 31-point blowout in Game 2 –
telling his All-Star that he’d be up to 29 minutes if he finished
the third quarter – his point guard balked at the idea.
”I didn’t play for three days, Pop,” Parker pleaded. ”I’m 29
Parker said afterward he just wanted to keep his conditioning.
On Wednesday, Ginobili said the biggest concern is not losing
momentum built during a 14-game winning streak, which ranks among
the six longest winning streaks sustained into the NBA playoffs
since 1986. The longest streak is 19 set by the Lakers in 2001.
”You prefer not to wait for eight days because you lose your
rhythm a little. But it’s not something that bad,” Ginobili said.
”And you got the opportunity to prepare a little bit more for
whoever you’re going to play. Individually, you can work on things
you have time to work on. So you gain in some regards, and you lose
a little rhythm.”
Despite the often grueling pace of the condensed regular season-
more back-to-backs, and some back-to-back-to-backs – the Spurs got
through with Duncan and Ginobili averaging among the fewest minutes
of their careers. Duncan played 28.2 minutes a game while Ginobili
played 23.3, logging seven fewer minutes a game than he did a year
Popovich could do that, in part, because of the deepest roster
at his disposal in 16 years. That much the Spurs could control.
Now stuck in standby mode until the Clippers and Grizzlies are
finished, forward Stephen Jackson isn’t worried about what they
”I don’t wish it ended, I don’t wish it goes more,” Jackson
said. ”It’s happening the way God wanted it to happen. I’m here,
everyone is healthy, and we’re advancing to the second round. So
just let it happen.”