Spurs lose Ginobili for rest of season
SAN ANTONIO -- The San Antonio Spurs' Big Three is down to two.
Manu Ginobili will miss the rest of the season and playoffs for the Spurs after tests Monday revealed that his troubled right ankle has gotten worse.
It was the news San Antonio dreaded after Ginobili sat out the fourth quarter in Sunday's blowout loss at Cleveland, and leaves the Spurs limping toward the postseason in search of a fifth NBA title since 1999.
Ginobili missed 19 games after the All-Star break to heal a stress reaction in his right distal fibula. He returned March 25, but tests showed the stubborn injury is now a fracture.
The Spurs said Ginobili wasn't expected to need surgery. But either way, Ginobili is out and the Spurs are hobbling with less than two weeks before the playoffs begin.
Tim Duncan is bothered by sore knees and has been sitting out the second game in back-to-backs down the stretch this season. Tony Parker carried the Spurs after Ginobili first went out in February and Duncan's knees began aching, and the weight figures to fall on the 26-year-old's shoulders again.
The Spurs lead the Southwest Division by a half-game but have fallen two games behind Denver for the No. 2 seed in the West, a spot San Antonio had held for most of the season. Their final six games begin Tuesday at Oklahoma City.
Ginobili scored four points before his ankle stiffened toward the end of Sunday's 101-81 loss to the Cavaliers. A CT scan and MRI on Monday showed that he had a stress fracture in the ankle and an increased narrow edema.
Ginobili also missed the start of this season while recovering from surgery to his left ankle. He's played in 44 games this season. He averaged 15.5 points and had recently been installed in the starting lineup -- a different role for the NBA's reigning sixth man of the year.
Injuries have forced Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to tinker with his lineup and rotations much later in the season than is custom in San Antonio. Popovich has been doing his best to keep his veteran team healthy down the stretch, resting Duncan in back-to-back games over last month to keep him fresh for the postseason.
Now the Spurs will likely need even more from All-Stars Duncan and Parker to make a long playoff run.
The 31-year-old Ginobili has played in seven NBA seasons, all with Spurs, and teamed with Duncan and Parker to build a nucleus that has won three NBA titles since 2003.
Last season, Ginobili's sore left ankle made his signature explosiveness visibly absent in the playoffs, particularly in the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. Later that summer in the Olympics while playing for Argentina, he hobbled off the court during a loss to United States and eventual got surgery to repair a ligament in the ankle.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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