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    As things turn gray for injury-hit Spurs, Pop turns to White

    Oct 10, 2018
    spin zone

    CHICAGO - Kawhi Leonard, cheerless and disgruntled, is gone. His bad energy traded last July 18 to the farthest place they possibly could - out of the country to Toronto, Canada.

    A week before that, Tony Parker severed his 17-year ties with San Antonio and relocated to the Charlotte Hornets who lured the 36-year old Frenchman from Belgium with a two-year $10 million contract, plus the promise of meaningful playing time.

    Last August 27, Manu Ginobili announced his retirement. After devoting 23 of his 41 life years as a pro basketball player, including 16 with the Spurs, the Argentine aerial acrobat and passing maestro has had enough.

    And then on Sunday against the Rockets, two days after Lonnie Walker IV tore his meniscus, Dejounte Murray, the point guard of the future to whom the keys to the most important position for these transitioning Spurs had just been given to, got hurt.

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    You know it's tough luck when a player suffers an injury while trying to elude, of all people, a guy who could score in bunches but couldn't guard a statue - James Harden.

    And you also sense that the injury is bad when the announcers utter the words "the knee buckled" and that it was a "non-contact play" but the player couldn't put weight on the foot so much so that a wheelchair had to be summoned.

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    On Monday, the fears were confirmed. Murray had indeed torn the ACL on his right knee, an injury that typically requires a full year for reconstruction and rehabilitation.

    After years of charmed existence, hoisting championships while producing role models and finding stars in places other franchises wouldn't think nor dare to mine, the Spurs are suddenly going through more upheaval than the Duterte administration.

    But if there's a team that can handle the stress of multiple personnel losses, it's San Antonio. These Spurs are tougher than a wild west sheriff. More stout-hearted than Texas.

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    "You just carry on. Devastating injury for him, the team. But life goes on. Everybody will pick up and do the best job we can to carry forward without him," head coach Gregg Popovich told The San Antonio Express News.

    SO WHAT NOW?

    The Spurs' Plan B is utilizing 24-year old Derrick White, a 6-foot-5, 190-pound point guard who they drafted 29th overall in 2017. Raw as rare steak, White appeared in only 17 games last season, logging 132 minutes.

    While White might not necessarily be ready for the big lights, he's prepared.

    White is a big dude - 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds. He starred in college where he cut his teeth with the University of Colorado averaging 18.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists in a one-and-done season. He is unlikely to squint under the bright lights.

    Even if Murray didn't get hurt, White was expected to play anyway. "We were already confident in Derrick," Popovich said.

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    Patty Mills can help run the offense, too. Although the Aussie is more suited as a shooting guard who nets 47.7 percent of his twos and 39 percent of his threes, he can also facilitate as evidenced by his career average of 2.3 assists per game.

    With All-Stars LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan as a 1-2 punch, the Spurs still have more than enough to make the playoffs for the 22nd straight year, a mind-blowing feat given how much parity there is in the Western Conference.

    But without an ace point guard, the Spurs' chances of winning the NBA title in June just dropped significantly lower than Vladimir Putin's 39 percent approval rating.

    However, it would be foolish to dismiss Popovich's boys completely.

    The Spurs were probably what poet William Arthur Ward had in mind when he wrote the line: adversity causes men to break; others to break records.

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