For one day at the Spurs’ practice facility, the NBA D-League’s Austin Toros were loaded with NBA point guards schooled at the University of Texas.
T.J. Ford, the former All-American and a veteran of seven-plus NBA seasons, officially was assigned to the Toros for one day so he could go through a full practice session. He joined Spurs rookie and former Longhorns starter Cory Joseph, who was assigned to the Toros on Saturday to get playing time that would have been rare with Ford back on the Spurs’ active list.
Ford didn’t even have to pack an overnight bag to go to practice. The Toros came to San Antonio for the workout.
Ford has played in two games since returning to the lineup after missing 24 games with a torn muscle in his left hamstring and remains in need of conditioning and full-court game rhythm. He did not play in the first half of Sunday night’s 99-94 loss to the Nuggets and only 5 minutes, 46 seconds in the second half. He was productive enough in his short stay, making his only shot, grabbing three rebounds and getting one assist.
Gutting it out: Suffering a stomach ailment that his coach hinted was akin to food poisoning, team captain Tim Duncan gutted out 23:46 of play in the loss to the Nuggets.
Afterwards, Duncan said his energy level was “all right,” but coach Gregg Popovich made sure he didn’t remain on the court for long stretches. Duncan’s longest stint was in the fourth quarter, when he played the final 5:28.
Duncan milked 14 points and nine rebounds out of his 23 minutes but missed two free throws with 58.5 seconds left and the Spurs trailing 95-92.
Still the one: It had been two months since Manu Ginobili had played at the ATT Center, and it was hard to tell who was happier when he entered Sunday’s game with 5:45 left in the first quarter: Ginobili or Spurs fans who greeted his entry into the game with a rolling, standing ovation.
“It felt great,” Ginobili said. “I was excited enough for being back after two full months of not playing in this gym. It really motivated me and made me feel good. Of course, I’m always thankful to (the fans).
“First, you think about just coming back, starting playing, feeling the games, not just watching from the first row. I was happy enough to just be with the team, wearing the 20. It was a good moment.”
Ginobili expressed a grudging admiration for a play made by Denver’s Ty Lawson that was reminiscent of the all-out effort plays Ginobili often makes during crunch time. Lawson came from the perimeter to grab a rebound from Ginobili’s grasp after a missed Denver free throw with 4:18 left in a close game.
“I don’t know what kind of play it was,” he said, “but we didn’t see him. I was going to grab the rebound. He came from behind and snatched it. It was a good, hard play that he made.”
Blair update: Starting center DeJuan Blair played only 3:35 after banging knees with Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov early in the first quarter. The injury was termed a knee contusion, and Blair played briefly in the second half.