With the regular season winding down and playoff positioning races holding some of the highest stakes of all time, teams in the NBA are performing finally showing their maximum potential. From the 6-8 seeds out West to the everyday flip-flopping of playoff seeds across the board in the East, it seems that team have never cared more about winning games.
Well, except for the San Antonio Spurs.
As crazy as this may sound coming off a season-high 19-game win streak, San Antonio has given up all care for winning regular season basketball games. Sure, they will probably still win a couple more, but their main focus is to rest up for their first-round playoff matchup.
Having already taken claimed their 5th season in franchise history with 60 wins, winning just isn’t a priority for the team anymore. They’ve proven they’ve still got what it takes to win, and win handedly. They’ve proven that age is no longer an issue even worth mentioning when discussing possible weaknesses with the Spurs machine. They’ve even laid to rest the notion that they somehow can’t step up to the “upper-tier” opponents in the league this season, beating 6 likely playoff teams handedly during their 19-game win streak.
What they have yet to prove is their ability to win with injuries in the postseason. And why might this facet of the Spurs’ game remain unproven? Because they’ve never even had the problem.
Within the Spurs’ system lies the importance of health. Coach Popovich has become the master of rest and rehabilitation. He’s notorious for resting any and all the key 3 (Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili) during nationally televised games, willing to take on the burden any fine if it means his players stay healthy.
Recently, Tony Parker suffered a minor back sprain, an injury the majority of NBA players would play through in order to help the team win and preserve their own macho-man status. With the Spurs, however, this injury will allow you to stay home on a quick two-day road trip, have a couple days of R&R, get a massage or two, then come play 20 minutes or so in the remaining games. This is the life of luxury in terms of the NBA.
The Spurs are able to do this because of their tremendous depth, playoff positioning, and, most of all, their utter trust in the coaching staff that has achieved nothing but success for more than a decade.
In last night’s wire-to-wire loss to the Timberwolves, Manu Ginobili took a knee to his calf in the 3rd quarter, warranting an immediate spot on the bench for the remainder of the game. While the injury is nothing more than a contusion, this shows the lengths that the coaching staff will go to to ensure that the team is at full strength come playoffs. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Ginobili gets the night off tomorrow night in Dallas, rivalry game or not.
So if you’re watching the Spurs in the next week, don’t get too upset with a couple of losses. It’s all a part of the master plan.