Even in pulling off the second-best record in the Western Conference to date, the Spurs haven't quite managed to meet their own standards for consistent execution. Gregg Popovich would likely lay the blame for that with the team itself, though San Antonio's players haven't at all been helped by a frequent and layered run of injuries. Every week seems to bring some rotation player's absence, and when compounded those ailments that changes the Spurs' working conditions dramatically.
San Antonio's latest scratch, though, is especially painful in that strive for consistency. According to Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News, Popovich disclosed that All-Star point guard Tony Parker will be sidelined "for the foreseeable future" by a "variety of maladies" -- Parker's latest back tweak undoubtedly among them. That, on top of injuries to Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard, leaves the Spurs without their three best perimeter players and terribly understaffed in terms of shot creation.
It should go without saying that a team missing a ball handler of Parker's caliber would suffer offensively in his absence, but that needs be reiterated in light of the widespread reverence for San Antonio's depth. The Spurs are more effective than most in terms of compensating for absent stars, but only so much can be done when Parker and Ginobili -- the tandem of which provides the impetus for San Antonio's base offense -- are both unavailable. Remove Leonard as well, and Cory Joseph, Danny Green, Marco Belinelli and Patty Mills are thrust into uncomfortably demanding roles.
Competency can still be expected; these are the Spurs, after all, even without some of their best players in uniform. But Parker's absence will cost San Antonio in both the short and long term, as this team can't well be expected to sort out its big-picture issues without its best offensive player in uniform. It seems more than a bit unlikely that the Spurs will somehow turn around their crummy record against top teams sans Parker, to say nothing of Ginobili or Leonard. Beyond that, every game missed is a delay in San Antonio's opportunity to work its way into momentum. For a Spurs team that hasn't often played championship-level basketball this season, that's a bit of a problem.
It's hard to gauge the full implications of Parker's injury until we get a better sense of what Popovich meant by "foreseeable future," but at the very least this is an inconvenience for a team whose immediate schedule features away games against the Clippers
, Blazers, and Suns
in succession. Under better circumstances, that trio of games is a clarifying run for a Spurs team looking to fine-tune on its way out of the All-Star break. Instead it's an exercise in doing without, and yet another test for a team persistently at less than full strength.