|Gregg Popovich rests his veterans plenty, spelling Parker and Duncan a combined 33.6 mpg. (Getty Images)|
Updated Feb. 21
The All-Star break has arrived. We're at the halfway mark of the season, and every team has to be thankful they managed to make it here.
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This schedule has wreaked havoc on teams, and so much of what we're seeing doesn't seem in line with what would have happened in a normal season. Could Linsanity have happened? Would the Celtics be better? Would the Sixers be worse? It's impossible to know.
What we do know is that teams need this break. It's honestly a shame that All-Star weekend is such a short intermission, that the break is so hectic for those involved because these guys need a chance to catch their breath and rest their bones. But so it goes in a lockout-shortened season -- those not involved get a handful of days off, then it's back to the meat grinder.
We're entering the most dangerous time of year for teams -- approaching the point of no return for clubs wanting to make a run or blow it up. The trade deadline is looming, so the next few weeks are critical. For some teams, the All-Star break is a chance to reaffirm their commitment to what has worked so far. For others, it's their last chance to right the ship. And for some it's just a chance to get away from a miserable season that seems twice as hard at twice the pace.
At this point, the teams at the top need to check their rearview mirror, especially the Thunder. The Spurs all of sudden have won 11 straight (seven in a row on their annual Rodeo Road Trip), and sit just two games behind Oklahoma City. The Spurs have managed this stretch despite not having Manu Ginobili for all but a game and a half. They are deep, talented, loaded on the perimeter and the defense has shown signs of life.
The Spurs go into the break needing rest for Tim Duncan's knees, for Tony Parker's ankles and to get more recovery time for Ginobili, who strained an oblique early in San Antonio's Feb. 18 win over the Clippers -- just his fourth game back from a broken left hand that kept him sidelined for 22 games. Also out for two weeks (calf strain) is second-year forward Tiago Splitter, who at 6-foot-11 has been a key role player in the paint as Duncan's age limits his minutes. The Brazilian was averaging 9.4 points and 5.2 rebounds in just over 20 minutes a game before straining his calf vs. the Clippers.
Despite the limited minutes for their veterans and the team's injuries, while most teams are either trying to fight off teams behind them or figure out what's gone wrong this season, the Spurs are in a perfect position. Still chasing the Thunder, still beating teams with their versatility, offensive firepower, and experience, and with the understanding that they can't slack off after last year's playoff debacle. So while it's a perilous time for teams in this league, the Spurs may wind up being the greatest danger to the competition.
It's time for a break, but after that, it only gets harder from here.