Basically, we have no idea when Tim Duncan is coming back.
After spraining his ankle Monday night Duncan himself said two weeks. Then after looking at the MRI the team said it was between a grade 1 and 2 sprain, which would mean more like three weeks. The official diagnosis was expected when the swelling went down Thursday or Friday.
Then before the Spurs took the court Wednesday night coach Gregg Popovich made it sound like it might not be that long at all, Chris Tomasson reports on twitter.
Popovich on Tim Duncan’s ankle: “I’m hoping it won’t be that long (2 weeks). I think it will be a good four or five games for sure.”
Popovich was asked if there’s any reason to believe his injury could hamper him start of playoffs. “No, no, no,” Popovich said.
Four or five games would have Duncan back around the start of April. Whether that is accurate or not, the belief that he will not miss any playoff games is really the key point. I expect the Spurs will be extra cautious in bringing him back, but they will want him once the playoffs begin.
An MRI on Tim Duncan’s ankle showed “between a grade one and grade two sprain” Spurs GM R.C. Buford said, reports Mike Monroe on twitter.
A grade one sprain would mean about the two-week recovery Duncan himself said after the injury. A grade two sprain — which means a partial tearing of the ligaments – would be more like a month. The Spurs will announce a timetable for Duncans’ return in 48 to 72 hours, Buford said.
The NBA playoffs start in three weeks.
Duncan injured his ankle in the second quarter Monday when came down on the foot of Golden State’s Ekpe Udoh and his ankle rolled.
As Zach Lowe noted at Sports Illustrated, Tony Parker has said the only truly important thing about the Duncan injury to the News Express Spurs Nation blog:
“We can win without Timmy in the rest of the regular season and get that top seed,” Tony Parker said. “But we’re not going anywhere in the playoffs without him.”
The Spurs will finish with the top seed in the NBA, they have a comfortable 7 game lead over the Lakers out West and 6.5 games over Boston and Chicago for the overall. The Spurs likely would win a first-round playoff match up with Memphis, New Orleans or Houston without a 100 percent Duncan, although they could be pushed six games or more.
But by the time of a second round matchup — probably against Oklahoma City — they will need him back and 100 percent.
So expect for the rest of the regular season for the Spurs to take a page out of the Celtics playbook and not rush Duncan back at all. It’s not like this veteran team that has played the first 70 games of the season together need him to work on fitting in. But come the playoffs, you can expect Duncan to play. Or you can expect the Spurs to be in trouble.