For every Spurs player not named Tony Parker, the All-Star break provided a welcome respite from the grueling grind of this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it lockout season. Before the games resume Wednesday against Chicago (8 p.m., KENS, ESPN), Express-News staff writer Jeff McDonald presses pause to gauge the state of the Spurs at the midway mark:
What went right
Playing like an All-Star and borderline MVP candidate, Parker is enjoying his best season with a team-leading 19.4 points and career-best 8.1 assists per game.
The Spurs’ bench, led by youngsters such as Tiago Splitter, Gary Neal, Danny Green and rookie Kawhi Leonard, has been a revelation. The Spurs wrapped up the first half by going 8-1 on the rodeo road trip, the second-best mark in the history of the annual trek.
Coach Gregg Popovich has been able to keep 35-year-old power forward Tim Duncan fresh by limiting his minutes to career-low levels.
What went wrong
The Spurs were kind of an injury train wreck for much of the first half, which makes their 24-10 record all the more impressive.
Manu Ginobili (hand, oblique) has played just nine games.
Backup point guard T.J. Ford (hamstring) has missed the past 24.
Splitter and Leonard (strained calves) also could open the second half on the injured list.
The Spurs have weathered the injury bug well so far, but it’s difficult to imagine them doing much damage in the playoffs if not at full strength.
What happens next
As payback for finishing the first half on a nine-game road trip, the Spurs get to open the second half with seven straight games at home, where they are 13-1.
Wednesday’s game against Derrick Rose and the Bulls will be the Spurs’ first at the ATT Center since Feb. 4. The remaining schedule does come with some trouble spots, including a stretch of five games in six nights at the end of March and a road-only back-to-back-to-back on the West Coast in April.
What happens next, Part II
Thanks to the lockout, the trade deadline has been pushed back to March 15. It still shouldn’t matter much to the Spurs.
Though team officials acknowledge the roster could use a fifth big man, the Spurs don’t appear to have the assets to land one via trade. A more likely scenario has the front office scouring the waiver wire after the deadline, when untraded veteran players typically achieve contract buyouts.