The San Antonio Spurs “Big Three” is down to about one and a half.
Manu Ginobili is done for the regular season and the playoffs. Ginobili felt tightness in his ankle during the blow-out loss to the Cavaliers Sunday, so he received both and MRI and a CT scan on Monday. That found an increased marrow edema and a stress fracture in his right distal fibula.
If you’re not a doctor we can explain that to you — it’s bad. Very bad. Shut down until next season bad. Ginobili was never right after injuring his ankle in the Olympics, and this just seemed like the sad but inevitable ending.
The Spurs had hoped that a healthy big three could make another — maybe last — big playoff run. The cry last year in San Antonio was that with a healthy Manu they could have beaten the Lakers. Ginobili is that good — he is a smooth, dynamic player that can get into the paint off the dribble, hit a spot up shot or do whatever it takes to win. He’s entertaining to watch play.
Now, not only is Ginobili not healthy, Tim Duncan is hobbling around on virtually one leg.
Tony Parker can only take a team so far by himself — and now that may not even be out of the first round of the playoffs. If the post-season started today San Antonio would get an improving New Orleans team in the first round, which would be a very tough out. Chris Paul could cancel out Parker, and the Hornets are younger and have more depth.
Of course, the playoff seedings are not set yet. instead San Antonio could end up with Portland or Utah or Houston — none of which is really a much better option than New Orleans.
The conventional wisdom in NBA circles has been for much of the season that only a healthy Spurs team could really challenge the Lakers in the West. Without Ginobili, that is not going to happen.
Who takes over the mantle of team that is a Western Conference threat to the Lakers? A Utah team that can’t win on the road? A Denver team that is counting on Carmelo Anthony in to play some defense? A Houston team the Lakers have handily dispatched twice recently? A very young Portland team?
No, the Spurs were the best chance of making the Western Conference playoffs interesting beyond the game of trying to avoid the Lakers. And next year it is even less likely the Spurs can play that role — the young Lakers core will almost certainly be back, while San Antonio will just be a year older. Portland is getting a taste for winning and will likely take a big step forward. Teams like Utah and Denver could add a piece that would make them contenders. Meanwhile, the role players will get older and Duncan will turn 33 and be entering his 13th NBA season.
All of that combined could leave the Spurs on the outside looking in. Which will be a sad end of tan era.
But we will still tune in, because Ginobili is still worth watching. But that is enjoyment on hold until October.