The Spurs have had injury issues this year, and Pop is known to rest players anyway so who's going to be available in Charlotte?
Pop is one of the league's great wild cards, isn't he? David Stern must be over the moon to not be playing Principal Rooney to Pop's Ferris Bueller anymore.
With the number of injuries the team's been dealing with at the beginning of the Rodeo Road Trip, it was pretty much inevitable that there would be at least one game where we'd see the Big Three (or whatever part of it was still standing) rested. The decision of when to do that was made easier after the double-OT game in Washington. Having played Tim Duncan 41 minutes in that win, it wasn't a big surprise to see him sit out the next one.
As far as the game against Charlotte on Saturday, I don't see why he'd rest Timmy again. He'll have had a few days' rest and will be important for containing Big Al. Tony is a bit trickier, given his exit from the Wizards game, and I haven't yet heard the latest on his status. I'd err on the side of him sitting out and Cory Joseph getting some more minutes.
Manu Ginobli aims to be back after the All-Star break do the Spurs need him to be the Manu of old or have they added enough depth to not need as many minutes from him?
Manu has silenced most worries that San Antonio's re-signing of him was sentimental folly. He's been ultra-efficient this season in playing a similar, but slightly smaller, role for the team. It's kind of like he's splintered off into two players - one who resembles him (albeit with a slightly larger bald spot), and another who looks decidedly more Italian and wears the number 7. I think if he can come back from injury and play like he has, while throwing in a couple of performances like last year's Game 5 against Miami, the Spurs will be in good shape for another run.
Is it fair to say Kawhi Leonard was not having the huge breakout season some thought he might have after his play in the Finals or is that being overblown?
I'd say fans definitely had higher expectations of Kawhi, whether fair or not, after seeing what he did against the Heat in the Finals. However I don't see his season as a disappointment, since it's not a question of him being asked to do more and failing at that. Almost all his numbers are up almost across the board the last time I checked, and I can see him having a stronger second half once he gets over his injury. Still, it wouldn't hurt to see him really take over a game just to give us a taste of what we still think he'll be capable of doing regularly in the (near) future.
Tim Duncan is ... pretty incredible. Having a game like he did the other night in a double-overtime win against the Wizards and how he's played all year at his age is nothing short of amazing. How much does he have left?
Being unfamiliar with the limitations of nanotechnology, or the model number that Timmy's implanted into his body, I honestly have no idea how much he has left in the tank, however I can see the memories of Game 7 propelling him to keep up this level of play at least through to the end of this season. Producing like he has at the age of 37, Duncan really has been incredible and - however these playoffs may end for him - he's certainly padded his already-peerless resume.
Assuming everyone gets back healthy in time for a playoff run, what do the Spurs need to do to get back to the Finals in a loaded West?
Learn to neutralize the Reggie Jacksons of the West (namely, Reggie Jackson). Health is the big one, but I suppose that's the case with every team in the league. Beyond that, only a matchup against a Thunder team at full strength really scares me, even with the Spurs' awful record against the NBA's top teams this season, and Jackson has taken great pleasure in being a Spurs-killer this year.
Of course, there are a number of other things they need to do right to make it back to the Promised Land, but the fact that, as a Spurs fan, I immediately jump to something so small is a testament to the faith Pop and the boys have instilled in us over the years. Whatever is to happen, I'm really looking forward to see how the rest of this season unfolds.
A big thanks to Bruno for taking the time. I have to say Bueller is not a comparison I had made with Pop, but I love it. Check out Pounding the Rock on the web and follow Bruno on twitter at @BrunoPassos85