Losers of four in a row, the defending champion San Antonio Spurs are languishing in 7th place in the West, 34-23 and not looking anything like the team that went to the Finals the last two years.
Boris Diaw, who starred in the 2014 NBA playoffs, looks like the doughy player who struggled in Charlotte. Tim Duncan is finally is 38, Kawhi Leonard has been injured, and the bench – so pivotal in resting the Big 3 the last couple of seasons – has been underwhelming.
But most of the all, something’s wrong with Tony Parker. A hamstring injury has hindered him this season, and he’s calling a recent mini-slump one of the worst of his NBA career:
"“I don’t even want to use that as an excuse. I don’t feel great. Everybody knows it. Coaches know it. But hey, that’s everybody. Everybody’s got nagging stuff. It’s been a tough year for me since I got back from the nagging injury. I have not been the same since my injury. But I’m not going to use that as an excuse. Everybody knows me better than that. I just have to find a solution, even if I’m not feeling great.”"
For at least five years now, it feels like the Spurs have “looked old,” only to sip from the fountain of youth prior to the playoffs and make a run. But perhaps the last two runs to the Finals – an extra 44 games on those old legs – has finally gotten to them. Parker’s shooting 46 percent from the field – his worst since 2003-04. He’s settling for the 3-pointer (but making a career-best 49 percent) and not getting to the line like he’s used to (2.4 attempts per game, the lowest since his rookie year). His points, rebounds and assists are also the worst since his rookie season.
To piggyback off the PER discussion from the Barkley post … Parker was 11th in PER among point guards in 2013-2014, and 3rd the year before that. This season? He’s 36th among point guards. Seeing as how there are 30 teams in the league … yes, several backups – including his teammate, Cory Joseph – are ahead of him.
Parker’s 32. Duncan and Ginobili (he’s 37) are unrestricted free agents at season’s end. Danny Green will have a decision to make. And the cupboard is barren because they’ve whiffed pretty badly in the draft over the last six years.
And things won’t get any easier: The Spurs have to play the Rockets twice, the Thunder twice, the Mavericks twice, and have games against the Cavs, Hawks, Grizzlies, Raptors and Bulls over the final 25 games.
When Blake Griffin went down, it looked like the Paper Clips would be in trouble holding onto a playoff spot. But as the Thunder continue to surge – only 2.5 games behind the Spurs – the question might soon become: Can San Antonio hold off the Pelicans and Suns and make the playoffs?