Ford’s injury throws backcourt in turmoil

MILWAUKEE — When limped off the floor at the just before halftime Tuesday, it didn’t just change the look of the Spurs’ bench.

It likely changed their starting lineup as well.

In what he termed “a freak accident,” Ford strained his left hamstring after a driving layup with 30 seconds left in the first half of the Spurs’ 106-103 loss to Milwaukee. He had to be helped to the locker room by two members of the Spurs’ support staff.

“I just came down wrong,” Ford said.

Ford, who left the Bradley Center under his own power, did not undergo an MRI or any other tests at the arena. He expects to be re-examined today in San Antonio.

With no other point guards on the Spurs’ traveling roster, shooting guard took over as ‘s primary backup, with rookie sliding into Neal’s starting spot.

It is a look Spurs coach hinted might open the game tonight when Houston visits the ATT Center. It would also not be surprising for rookie to be recalled from the for depth purposes.

There is no immediate timetable for Ford’s return. For now, Neal is prepared to log time at point guard, a position he practiced during the lockout before Ford was added to the roster.

“You never know what’s going to happen in the course of a season,” Neal said. “I have to be prepared.”

With already sidelined, Ford’s absence robs the Spurs of their two most prolific set-up men. Invoking a bit of NBA parlance, Spurs captain called Ford’s injury “a big loss for our littles.”

“It puts a lot more pressure on T.P. and Gary,” Duncan said. “Both their minutes are going to go up a little bit.”

THE IRON MAN: Duncan, the Spurs’ oldest player at age 35, pronounced himself no worse for wear after logging a season-high 35 minutes, 50 seconds in Tuesday’s loss.

With Popovich aiming to keep Duncan’s minutes down during this condensed season, it marked just the second time the Spurs’ power forward had crossed the 30-minute threshold.

“It felt good to be out there that long,” said Duncan, who had his first 20-point game of the season to go with eight rebounds and seven assists. “I know we have a game (Wednesday), so we’ll see how I feel then.”

ANOTHER AZTEC: Leonard should see a familiar face in the Spurs’ locker room tonight at the ATT Center.

Malcolm Thomas, Leonard’s teammate and roommate last season at San Diego State, is expected to be in uniform for the Spurs tonight against Houston after being called up from the Development League.

Thomas, a 6-foot-9 forward who averaged 14.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in eight games for the Los Angeles D-Fenders, was in San Antonio for a physical Tuesday.

“He’s athletic, he does a good job on defense,” said Leonard, offering the scouting report on the 23-year-old Thomas. He comes from help side, blocks shots. He’ll get tip-backs and rebounds. He’s a great team player.”

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