Manu Ginobili stalked through the locker room Monday night at the United Center, off for another pregame warm-up that would constitute his most vigorous physical activity of the day. He paused to greet a familiar face, who responded with the question most often lobbed at the injured Spurs guard these days: “How ya doin’?” “I’m awesome,” Ginobili answered in a tone that communicated he clearly was not. “Just awesome.” Moments later, coach Gregg Popovich delivered the news that had made his Argentine shooting guard so sullen. Not only was he holding out Ginobili (hamstring) and Tim Duncan (knee) again that night against Chicago, but All-Star point guard Tony Parker was joining them on the injured list with right knee swelling. “Right now, I’m not in good graces with a couple of guys on my team,” Popovich said. “They want to play. I’m making sure they’re healed before coming back.” The kid-gloves care that the Spurs’ restless stars might consider a frustration, and that Popovich considers a necessity, is viewed by the rest of the roster as an opportunity. Behind a career-high 26 points from second-year small forward Kawhi Leonard, and a host of contributions from lesser lights up and down the bench, the Spurs put on a clinic of teamwork in stomping the Bulls 103-89. Leonard’s backup, Stephen Jackson, also missed the game after leaving the rodeo road trip to tend to personal issues. “We talked about it before the game: ‘OK, today we don’t have Tony, don’t have Tim, no Manu, no Jack,’” said center Tiago Splitter, who had 16 points and five rebounds. “We’ve still got to go there and compete.” With one game left before the All-Star break, expect the Spurs to arrive just as shorthanded tonight in Cleveland. After what happened in Chicago, it would be foolish to count them out. That the Spurs were able to grind out a league-leading 41st victory with their Big Three shelved should not have surprised those who have been paying attention.
For Spurs, the system is the star
San Antonio Express-News | Feb 13