In the past 15 months, Gary Neal has suffered a lacerated finger courtesy of a rogue suitcase zipper, a gash on his forehead resulting from a losing run-in with his own medicine cabinet, and a scar on his abdomen from the removal of an infected appendix. It is only recently, however, that the star-crossed Spurs guard has begun to feel truly unlucky. Neal, 28, revealed to the Express-News after Sunday’s 114-75 victory over Detroit that he has been playing most of the season with tendinitis in his left Achilles and plantar fasciitis in his left foot. That debilitating double-whammy has served to drag down the third-year bench scorer’s shooting numbers, and could dampen his value heading into free agency this summer. “I just have to keep treating it and keep trying to push it out,” Neal said. “Not making any excuses. If you’re on the court, you’re healthy enough to play.” A lethal, quick-strike scorer when physically right, Neal has largely abstained from advertising the extent of his injuries even as his shooting has dipped to career-low levels overall (40.8 percent) and from 3-point range (35.7 percent). The team’s official medical report continues to describe Neal’s condition as tightness in the left calf. Neal has been playing in pain for so long — since at least late November, he estimates — that he has almost forgotten what it’s like to be whole. It required visual evidence, in the form of game film from the Spurs’ Feb. 22 loss at Golden State, to convince Neal that overcoming his injuries was not simply a case of mind over matter. “I went for a layup,” Neal said, “and didn’t even jump.” Remarkably consistent in each of his first two NBA seasons — he averaged 9.8 points as a rookie, 9.9 points last season and shot exactly 41.9-percent on 3-pointers in each — Neal has floundered since his latest round of injury troubles began.
Ailments affecting hard-luck Neal
San Antonio Express-News | Mar 5