SAN ANTONIO — Veteran guard Manu Ginobili expects the San Antonio Spurs to start off slower than normal this season with starting point guard Tony Parker and star forward Kawhi Leonard missing important cohesion time in the preseason while recovering from injuries.
“We are not going to start full throttle,” Ginobili said. “We’re not going to start as ready to compete as in previous years. But we’ll figure it out.”
San Antonio is coming off back-to-back seasons with 60 or more wins for the first time in franchise history. Although Parker is ahead of schedule in returning from a ruptured quadriceps tendon suffered in the Western Conference semifinals, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said the team will manage the point guard’s recovery conservatively.
The Spurs announced on Saturday that Leonard would miss the remainder of the preseason as he “continues a rehabilitation program for right quadriceps tendinopathy.”
Both Leonard and Parker remained in San Antonio when the rest of the squad hit the road to open the preseason at Sacramento.
“In a way, it kind of helps to get the other players more involved, more confident, having more shots,” Ginobili said. “But we know [this is] not the team we’re going to be. So [the absence of Leonard and Parker] it helps in some ways. But we need to play with [Leonard] because he’s our go-to guy. He’s the one that carries the load offensively. We need to adjust to play with him again. It is very unfortunate that he’s not been able to be with us or to play in the preseason. We are building, of course, and hopefully we get him back quickly.”
Popovich mentioned last week that Leonard did not suffer the injury recently, and that it has lingered from last season while the rehab has “gone a little more slowly than we thought.”
The same could be said for the way the Spurs are bringing along Rudy Gay, who signed a two-year deal over the summer worth $17 million, and still hasn’t made his preseason debut. Gay ruptured his left Achilles tendon playing for the Kings last season. Although he’s been medically cleared to play and is participating in practices, Popovich has said the team will maintain a conservative stance on his return.
“This is a marathon,” guard Patty Mills said. “Everyone understands that. So, no expectations.”
Gay averaged 21.1 points two seasons ago for the Kings, and he’s expected to bring additional offense to San Antonio. The Spurs haven’t yet figured out Gay’s role or where he will play in the rotation, and he may not receive much time in the preseason with his new teammates to carve out his role.
“For sure, it’s not I’m saying we should hurry things up,” Ginobili said. “We all wish to be healthy all the time, and it doesn’t happen like that. So, not having [Leonard] and Tony, it’s important, or Rudy. Rudy is practicing. He’s almost ready. But he’s still cautious, and he’s been out for seven months. So he’s going to take his time, too.”