SAN ANTONIO – Throughout their two-decade run of success, the Spurs have been noted for coming out of the chute quickly when the first shot of the season goes up.
Take last year, for example. The Silver and Black rolled to a 129-100 rout of Golden State in their opener – on the road – and won 16 of their first 20 games.
The start of this season may have a different feel for the Spurs, who are coming off their second consecutive 60-win campaign. With Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard nursing injuries and key offseason acquisition Rudy Gay on the road back from Achilles surgery, the typically fast-starting Silver and Black could be slow coming out of the gate.
Veteran guard Manu Ginobili said as much after a workout this week, as the Spurs continued the grind of training camp.
“We are not going to start probably full throttle,” Ginobili said. “We are not going to start that ready to compete, as in previous years. But we’ll figure it out.”
Parker continues to rehab after rupturing his left quadriceps tendon in the playoffs last May, and Leonard is sidelined with a sore right quadriceps that has lingered since last season. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had not given a timetable on Leonard’s return.
Leonard started training camp, but was pulled off the floor to concentrate on rehabbing the injury. The Spurs announced during their Silver and Black scrimmage last Saturday that Leonard, a finalist for the NBA’s MVP award last season, is expected to miss the entire preseason.
Guard Danny Green also addressed the possibility of starting the season without Parker and Leonard.
“It’s different, it’s an adjustment,” Green said. “There’s going to be another adjustment made when those guys come back. Obviously, those guys are a big key to what we do here in our offense and defense, especially Kawhi. Tony as well.
“When they come back, we’ll have to make some adjustments. Right now, it’s finding different ways to get looks for other guys, get our offense flowing and good movement. Right now, the young guys are doing a good job of moving the ball and knowing the system right away, being unselfish.”
The Spurs will continue working on their chemistry when they play the Sacramento Kings in their preseason home opener Friday night at the AT&T Center. Tipoff is at 7:30. The Silver and Black started the preseason with a 106-100 loss to the Kings on Monday in Sacramento.
San Antonio hosts Denver in its third of five preseason games Sunday at 3 p.m. The Spurs open the regular season against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Oct. 18 at the AT&T Center.
Gay will make his Spurs debut Friday night against the Kings, the team he played with for 3½ seasons before he signed a two-year, $17 million deal with San Antonio this summer. One of the league’s best scorers at small forward, Gay averaged 18.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in 30 games last season. He hasn’t played since going down with the Achilles injury on Jan. 18.
To say Gay is eager to play again would be an understatement.
“I’m excited just to put a jersey on and go out there and compete,” Gay said Thursday. “It’s so much more than basketball right now for me just to be able to play. It’ll be fun. It’s kind of bittersweet playing against Sacramento. But no matter who it was, I’d be excited.”
Meanwhile, the Spurs will work on finding their groove with Parker and Leonard sidelined.
Ginobili said Leonard’s absence could give some of the team’s younger players an opportunity to develop.
“In a way, it kind of helps to get other players involved and more confident in having more shots,” he said. “But we know that is not the team we are going to be. So, it helps in some ways. But we need to play with him because he’s our go-to guy, the one who carries the load offensively.”
Dejounte Murray and Kyle Anderson started for Parker and Leonard, respectively, in Monday’s preseason opener.