Every team in the NBA has to deal with adversity. Usually, that adversity stems from injuries. The 4-10 scrum in the Western Conference embodies that better than anyone.
The Thunder are missing Andre Roberson, the Timberwolves are missing Jimmy Butler, the Jazz were down Rudy Gobert for a big chunk of time, the Pelicans have been dealing with life after DeMarcus Cousins, the Clippers lost Patrick Beverley early, and the Nuggets were without Paul Millsap for a while.
Teams can do everything correctly: hire the right coach, draft the best players and develop them well, make shrewd decisions in free agency trade season, and do all the little things that turn teams into contenders. However, all it takes is one injury to derail the best-laid plans.
That’s the story of the 2017-18 San Antonio Spurs. Their famous team culture, the unquestioned hierarchy, the calm resolve, all of it has at least been shaken askew by a right quadriceps tendinopathy. The Spurs have maintained a culture impossible to match by other franchises, but there appears to be a crack caused by...well, no one really knows.
Maybe Kawhi Leonard’s uncle wants him to play in Los Angeles, as has been rumored. However, if Kawhi really wants a max contract, then he needs to be able to play and show that his injury isn’t chronic. More than anything though, the Spurs need the situation to resolve itself to keep themselves out of the news. After spending years under-the-radar and ignored by ESPN until the playoffs, San Antonio has made headlines with players-only meetings and passive-aggressive comments from veteran leaders Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
Then again, with this being the Spurs, I’m sure Leonard will come back perfectly healthy and lead the Spurs deep into the playoffs and back into contention. For now, they’re just trying to get a win against a Rockets team that’s coasting.
Tip-off is at 2:30pm CT on ABC