Tony Parker Out = Clippers & Thunder Opportunity
He has become the unquestioned leader of this team; the backbone, if you will of an aging core surrounded by young, athletic, systematic players who love to play for Gregg Popovich. And who could blame them? He is the best coach in the league.
But here is what's currently at stake: 1st place in the West. With only about 6 weeks left in the NBA season, the Spurs hold a 3 game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder and a 3 1/2 game lead over the Los Angeles Clippers, who are set to meet each other in Sunday showdown with 2nd place on the line.
Something they will now take into consideration for the rest of the season is the fact that All-star point guard, Tony Parker, has been diagnosed with a Grade 2 ankle sprain and will be sitting out for a minimum of 4 weeks. That gives ample opportunity to both the Thunder and the Clippers to slip into the top overall seed heading into the playoffs - with the reward of home-court throughout.
Parker is having another MVP-type season, just as he did last year as he is putting up 21 points, 7.6 assists and 3 rebounds per contest while shooting 53% from the field. He is leading his team in a more controlled tempo, and Popovich has nothing but high praise for his leader.
Now, without Parker running the show, Manu Ginobili will essentially become the de facto point guard as they do not have a true backup after shipping George Hill to Indiani for Kahwai Leonard on draft day. Gary Neal will have some time there, but no one on this team compares to the impact Parkers makes on a nightly basis.
The Spurs, at least to me, were viewed as the top team in the West - not just because of their 3-game separation - but because they are coached well, they are unselfish, they move the ball, they defend and box out. There isn't another team in the league that consistently plays as hard as every player on the Spurs team - it's refreshing to watch sometimes, knowing that there is still a pro-team out there that cares about the fundamentals of basketball.
However, with the star PG to rest for a minimum of 4 weeks, the Clippers may in fact slip into that spot, or perhaps the Thunder can grab hold of the bulls horns at the opportune moment. Either way, the Spurs will struggle to hold onto the top seed for a month without their leader.