Though the San Antonio Spurs may be closer to full strength and
have the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed, this is not how Gregg
Popovich wanted his team to enter the playoffs.
Some may feel he’s partly to blame.
With San Antonio still reeling from Stephen Jackson’s sudden
departure, Popovich plans to play everyone available – even
possibly Manu Ginobili and newcomer Tracy McGrady – in the
regular-season finale Wednesday night against the Minnesota
Jackson being waived Friday by Popovich and Spurs management
about a week before the playoffs left many players shocked. Tony
Parker said at the time, “it’s a hard one, but it’s a big boss
decision,” and rumors have swirled that some teammates were unhappy
with the move, especially so late in the season.
Though nagging injuries played a role, Popovich has received
some criticism for throwing off continuity with his many lineup
changes, often giving veterans like Parker and Tim Duncan nights
San Antonio (58-23) has lost six of nine, blowing a chance at
the West’s top seed – recently clinched by Oklahoma City. The Spurs
had lost just six of their previous 33 games before this slump,
which includes Monday’s 116-106 defeat at Golden State.
“We’ve been playing better almost any other year going into the
playoffs compared to this year,” Popovich said. “The health this
year, the different lineups all the time based on what’s happened
toward the latter part of the season is certainly a part of it. But
I also think our focus hasn’t been as good as it needs to be the
last three to four weeks. I’ve been disappointed in our focus.”
Parker has missed 12 of the last 21 games, and Kawhi Leonard has
missed three this month as he battles a sore knee. Popovich sat out
Parker, Duncan and Leonard on Monday because they all played the
previous night in a 91-86 loss to the Lakers.
“Everybody will play on Wednesday because it’s not a
back-to-back,” Popovich said. “What we’re doing tonight is what we
do. We’ve done it all year. We’ve done it for 17 years.”
This will mark McGrady’s 16th year in the NBA if he plays a day
after being signed. The former seven-time All-Star played in China
this season after seeing limited minutes for Atlanta in
Ginobili has missed the past nine games with a strained
hamstring and 22 this season due to injury. It’s possible he will
return Wednesday for a tuneup before San Antonio opens the playoffs
this weekend against Golden State or Houston.
Ginobili’s average of 11.9 points is his lowest since his
2002-03 rookie season, including 7.9 over his past eight games
while shooting 29.0 percent.
That poor stretch began at Minnesota on March 12 in these teams’
last meeting, scoring seven points on 2-of-10 shooting in a 107-83
loss. Parker, Duncan and Leonard all sat out while Ricky Rubio
notched his first triple-double for the Timberwolves with 21
points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists.
Rubio, though, totaled 13 points on 3-of-19 shooting in the
first two meetings as the Spurs won both by double digits.
Minnesota has lost 16 in a row in San Antonio dating to Jan. 14,
The Timberwolves (30-51) have recorded their winningest season
since Kevin Garnett left in 2007, but there’s a chance this will be
Rick Adelman’s final game as their coach.
Adelman, eighth all-time with 1,001 wins, has considered
resigning due to his wife’s treatment for seizures. Her condition
caused him to miss 11 games earlier this season.
“I’m going to wait and see until we talk to the doctors and see
what direction they’ve decided we need to go at this point,”
Adelman said. “Then we’ll move from there.”