Manu goes down, Spurs have little time to regroup

In case you missed the collective groan Monday night, San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili fractured the fifth metacarpal in his left hand in the 2nd quarter of the Spurs’ loss at Minnesota. That’s doctor talk for his left pinky. Spurs assistant coach Don Newman said after the game they expect the all-star guard to be out four to six weeks.

The first reaction is something along the lines of a string of expletives. Manu was playing amazing in the first four and a half games of the season, leading the team in scoring and being the overall catalyst for the offense. Losing him for a month or so is going to hurt. However, despite Manu’s brilliant play so far, if the Spurs were going to lose one of the “Big 3″ for a stretch of time, losing Manu will have the least negative impact on the team.

It’s not Ginobili isn’t the Spurs’ best player, he is. It’s that the Spurs are loaded* at the wing spot (*loaded being a relative term compared to the depth at the point guard and power forward spots). Coach Pop announced after the game that James Anderson will slide in to Ginobili’s starting spot. Kawhi Leonard will no doubt see some time at the two spot moving forward. Danny Green has been aggressive and shot the ball well when he’s seen the court. Additionally, the Spurs will soon get Gary Neal back, who was a huge part of their rotation last season. So the scoring at the very least shouldn’t take too much of a tumble.

 The playmaking could take a tumble though if my favorite Spur Tony Parker doesn’t step his game up. Parker hasn’t been lighting up the court so far this season, averaging a very pedestrian 13.8 ppg (though the 6.5 apg isn’t too bad). Project Spurs’ own Paul Garcia theorized that Parker’s stint in Europe may have had a bigger impact on TP than we thought. We saw Parker get much more aggressive going to the basket in the 2nd half. He also may have said “Oh damn, I have Luke Ridnour and Ricky Rubio trying to check me. I should do something about this.” Tim Duncan also will need to start making shots and we saw the beginnings of that. Richard Jefferson, keep doing what you’ve been doing the beginning of this season.

The part that could be really rough for the Spurs is the schedule. If Manu heals fast he’ll be back by around the start of the Rodeo Road Trip (Memphis on Feb. 6th). Between now and then they have 20 games. Eleven are at home, ten on the road with five sets of back to backs including four games in five nights in the middle of this month. That’s not fun. It’s not an easy 20 games either. I count four guaranteed wins (vs. Golden State on Wednesday, at Milwaukee next Tuesday, versus Phoenix on the 15th and versus Sacramento on the 20th.) Past that, all toss ups or awful back to backs like at Miami and at Orlando.

Assuming he misses 20 games, I think the Spurs come out of this Manu-less stretch about 10-10. Is that a cop out? You bet. I just don’t know what we’re going to see from the young guys. I tweeted shortly after Pop announcing Anderson would start that I’m already overly excited and optimistic about James Anderson starting for a stretch.

So the sky isn’t falling. The Spurs are without their best player, but the’ve played without Manu for stretches before, so this isn’t anything new for the veterans. Here’s hoping to speedy recovery for Manu and that some of the young Spurs step up over the next 20 to 30 games.

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