The Spurs haven't caught many breaks these last several months. Manu Ginobili was hampered by injury in the playoffs, and then fall to injury during the Olympics. Tiago Splitter, Corey Maggette and Janero Pargo took the offer of a bigger paycheck from another team this summer. Promising youngsters Ian Mahinmi and George Hill are easing into this season with ankle and thumb injuries. Last week brought the sad news of Anthony Tolliver's mother's death, on the eve of his making an NBA roster. And today we learn that Fab Oberto will see some time on the shelf due to the recurrence of an irregularity in the rhythm of his heart. The last three of the aforementioned items might have provided added color for tonight's game.
Without Ian Mahinmi, Anthony Tolliver or Oberto, the Spurs are reduced to a front line of Duncan, Thomas and Bonner, using Ime Udoka as a 4 in small ball sets. In light of his recent comments regarding the Spurs employment of Hack-a-Shaq tactics, Shaquille O'Neal has an opportunity at a statement game this evening. Too bad for Shaq that his most notable statements of recent vintage have all come off the court. He's beyond statement games. He's now a guy whose only statements are issued to the media. The only person you're likely to hear talking about Shaquille O'Neal is Shaquille O'Neal. Lots of love in that way.
I say this without any ill towards him. Truth be told, I'm a Shaq fan. I've always admired his game and laughed at his locker room comments. He's funny. But I'm past the point of believing he's a threat to the Spurs, or anyone else for that matter. Tonight I'll watch, but all my attention will be on Amare Stoudemire. Will the Spurs depleted front court be able to hold him at bay? Of the Spurs players, I'm curious to see how comfortable Roger Mason Jr. looks within the system, and if anyone on Phoenix's roster can stay in front of Tony Parker.
All things considered, it's a humdrum opener.