Resting Spurs in no rush to start West semifinals

The San Antonio Spurs fretted all season about not getting

enough rest.

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

Conference semifinals.

”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

years old.”

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.”