Worrying about the Spurs' play in November generally tends to be a silly endeavor. But atrocious play combined with rapidly worsening health seems like reasonable cause for concern.
In case a humbling 16-point home loss to the Heat on Friday night wasn't bad enough, the Spurs (already sans Manu Ginobili) lost the second of their three stars as Tony Parker went down with an ankle sprain. He is expected to miss a minimum of two weeks.
At 1-4, the Spurs were having enough trouble hanging tough despite the fact that Tim Duncan and Tony Parker were playing at high levels even by their own standards. With the big three becoming the big one for the next two weeks (at a minimum), it's hard to imagine even Duncan being able to do too much with a cast that prominently features the likes of Desmon Farmer, Matt Bonner, Ime Udoka, several once-useful veterans who already seem tired and young gunner Roger Mason.
The general theory remains that so long as the Spurs can cruise into the playoffs, even with a low seed, they need to be considered a force to be reckoned with. But cruising into the playoffs looks more difficult than ever, especially with the Spurs likely to squander a very favorable November schedule. They sandwich a Houston game next week with contests against Milwaukee, New York, Sacramento and the Clippers, and they also see Memphis twice over the course of the month.
With two stars, this would have been a good situation - opponents just poor enough that Parker and Duncan could carry the black and silver to wins in a sufficient number of those games to hold down the fort until Ginobili returned for the tougher part of the schedule. Now, the Spurs could end up losing a bunch of these early-season contests and setting themselves up to need a huge performance down the stretch.
As a devoted believer in being wary of the power of an organization that is well-coached, smarter than most and doesn't beat itself, I'm by no means pronouncing the death sentence for the Spurs five games into 2008-09. But it is clear that there is more reason than ever to wonder if this is the year the confluence of age and injuries finally overcomes this team.