Without much muss or fuss, the San Antonio Spurs dispatched the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday evening, tying the bow on a decisive four game sweep of an injury-plagued Laker squad. In making their kill swift and painless, the Spurs allowed themselves to receive one of the few perks in what can be a chaotic NBA regular and postseason – the team now gets to rest, and rest, and rest, and rest …
The first game of the team’s second round series likely won’t tip off until Monday, even if the Golden State Warriors manage to hold off a resurgent Denver Nuggets squad and win their opening round series on Thursday. That’s seven whole days “off,” a massive chunk of time in an NBA season that usually turns its All-Star “break” into a series of mandatory appearances and travel days, and an 82-game marathon of a regular season with so much travel that teams are often forced into resting mostly healthy players, and canceling most in-season practices.
What do the Spurs plan to do with their downtime? Tim Duncan has his swords, Matt Bonner has his sandwiches, but All-Star guard Tony Parker most definitely does not have his Indiana Pacers/Atlanta Hawks series all lined up on the DVR to catch up on. Parker loves his hoops, and he’ll have plenty of time to catch up on the rest of the league this week, but he’s giving that series a miss. From the San Antonio Express-News:
“I watch every game,” he said. “I’m a student of the game. I love watching the games. The playoffs, all the games are really good. You can always learn something.”
Even Atlanta-Indiana, widely regarded as the dud of the first round?
“Except that one,” he joked. “I turned that off.”
(That wasn’t a joke. He turned that off.)
In spite of the star power and strum und drang, Parker’s first round pairing with Los Angeles was nearly as miserable to watch. Unlike the Pacers and Hawks, though, San Antonio did well to put us and the Lakers out of our misery and knock it off in four games. As a result, one of the league’s older and more banged-up teams will get a week off to revitalize those aching limbs, attempt to make sense out of two goofball teams in the Golden State Warriors or Denver Nuggets, and possibly welcome versatile forward/center Boris Diaw back to the fold.
Diaw hasn’t played since a short stint against Atlanta (!) on April 6, as the veteran big man (and close Parker chum) underwent surgery to alleviate a worrying amount of back pain. Jeff McDonald explains Boris’ possible return:
Out of action since April 12 surgery to remove an olive-sized cyst from the base of his spine, Diaw says he’s “getting close” to returning to the Spurs’ active roster.
He could suit up for Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against either Golden State or Denver, a series that will not begin until Monday.
“I’m feeling good,” said Diaw, who on Tuesday came out of a second full-contact practice with no trouble. “It shouldn’t be much longer.”
Diaw last played April 6 against Atlanta, exiting the game in the first half after noticing a problem with his right leg. Namely, that it wasn’t functioning.
“You go to move your leg, and you can’t move it,” Diaw said. “That’s a problem.”
Team doctors initially feared a disc issue in Diaw’s lower back, which if serious enough might have cost him the remainder of the season.
It was a relief to Diaw — albeit a painful one — when an MRI revealed a synovial cyst in his lumbar spine. The mass was pressing against his sciatic nerve, which controls the sensory and motor function in the leg.
Immediate surgery to remove it was mandatory. If left alone, Diaw says, he could have eventually lost function in his leg.
“If you let it go, it could mean permanent nerve damage,” Diaw said. “That’s not just basketball. That’s life.”
McDonald went on to report that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says he “think[s] he’ll be available” for the next round, 25 days following Diaw’s frightening surgery.
Diaw’s playmaking and defensive gifts will be needed against either a Golden State or Denver team that loves to run with small lineups for most of the contest. Starting center Tiago Splitter is a capable and athletic pivotman, but the Spurs may have to adapt quickly to either team’s tinier lineups – especially against a Golden State team that seems to be gaining more and more confidence in spite of two tough losses against Denver, and the season-ending hip injury to All-Star forward David Lee.
To a team, NBA squads will always choose “rhythm” over “rest” when asked to pick between the two on record. The Spurs would probably say the same thing, anxious and with five days between now and Monday evening. With the playoffs set to go on for at least another six weeks, though, the Spurs might end up appreciating this time off more than they’d care to admit. Sadly, Russell Westbrook’s season-ending surgery just opened up the Western bracket to all active teams that don’t have cartoon rockets on their uniforms, and while the Spurs aren’t the overwhelming favorite out West, they have as good a chance as any in that conference to make it to the Finals.
So use the time wisely, San Antonio Spurs. Which means not watching the Pacers and Hawks go at it. Leave that for people like us, who only do it because we’re paid to.