NBA Beat: This is not how Spurs wanted to go into playoffs

Published: Sunday, Apr. 14, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 5C
Last Modified: Monday, Apr. 15, 2013 - 2:21 pm

Key players are injured. A player who figured to play a key role has been waived. And an MVP candidate for most of the season is still coming back from injury.

In most cases, this would be cause for panic. But not for the San Antonio Spurs, often cited as the NBA's model franchise.

The Spurs were in control of the Western Conference for most of the season but now could finish second to Oklahoma City in the conference after going 5-5 in their last 10 games leading up to tonight's contest against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Key backup Boris Diaw had back surgery last week. Pivotal sixth man Manu Ginobili is out with a hamstring injury.

Veteran swingman Stephen Jackson surprisingly was waived.

San Antonio also must balance how to play guard Tony Parker, a legitimate MVP candidate before injuring his ankle last month.

With all the injuries, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich must decide how much to play Parker down the stretch to have him in optimal form for the postseason.

Popovich made no promises that Parker, to find his rhythm, would play in every game through the end of the regular season.

This isn't how the Spurs wanted to head into the playoffs.

"We'll see as we move forward, but everybody needs to be in a rhythm," Popovich said. "The whole team has to be together and know what's going on. We're still learning about each other just because Manu's been out and Boris was a pretty big surprise to all of us.

"We're trying to get that rotation down, too. No one wants to be in that position at the end of the year, but that's the way it is, and you've just got to deal with it and move on."

There are a lot of things for the Spurs to worry about before the playoffs start. Chemistry on the court is one, and health is another.

Popovich is also looking for better defense from the Spurs.

"It's tough to say after a game or after two games if the defense is better or the defense is worse," Popovich said. "I try not to evaluate (it) on a day-to-day or game-to-game basis. There were good moments, and there were bad moments. (Games last) 48 minutes; that's why people score."

With all that to consider, the Spurs still could earn the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. That's not a bad position to be in, but things certainly could be better.

Playoff watch

Two. That's how many games the Lakers must win to secure the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs if Utah wins its final two games.

After playing the Spurs tonight, the Lakers host Houston on Wednesday. Winning those games became a lot tougher with Kobe Bryant out six to nine months with a torn Achilles' tendon.

Injuries have ravaged the Lakers this season, with Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace, Jordan Hill and Dwight Howard all missing time.

But losing Bryant likely ends any talk of the Lakers pulling off an improbable playoff run from the eighth seed.

Tweet of the week

"Random tears of devastation and doubt mixed with inner determination and will #countonfamily THANKU #vicodintweets comin ha!"

Bryant (@kobebryant), hours after tearing his Achilles' tendon on Friday night against the Warriors.

Follow The Bee's Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

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Read more articles by Jason Jones



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