None now where once there was plenty

San Antonio Express-News - - FRONT PAGE - By Jeff McDon­ald

OR­LANDO — In July, Spurs stal­wart point guard Tony Parker stunned the bas­ket­ball world with his de­ci­sion to sign with the Char­lotte Hor­nets.

At the time, Parker said he opted to leave the only NBA home he had ever

for one pri­mary rea­son: He wanted min­utes on the court, and the re­build­ing Spurs didn’t have them to of­fer a 35-year-old point guard.

Now, less than a week be­fore the start of the 2018-19 reg­u­lar sea­son, the Spurs are out of point guards al­to­gether.

First to go down was Lon­nie Walker IV, the Spurs’ 2018 firstround draft pick. Sun­day, the heir-ap­par­ent to Parker at the point, De­jounte Mur­ray, tore his an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment against Hous­ton.

On Fri­day, Der­rick White, the backup point guard, also joined the in­jured list.

“When they told us this morn­ing, it was kind of hard to process,” Spurs cen­ter Pau Ga­sol said. “It’s go­ing to be a tough chal­lenge. It would be for any team.”

The Spurs re­turned from their fi­nal pre­sea­son game at Or­lando’s

Amway Cen­ter on Fri­day in search of a vet­eran point guard to fill the breach as each of the Spurs’ past three first-round draft picks were in­jured in the span of a week.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich chooses to take a philo­soph­i­cal view of the Spurs’ in­jury epi­demic, which comes as they pre­pare to be­gin the reg­u­lar sea­son Wed­nes­day against Minnesota.

“There’s so much junk in the world, you’re bet­ter off if you look at the cup as half full,” Popovich said. “I just say, draft­ing Tim Dun­can was prob­a­bly all the luck we de­served for a long time. Now it’s go­ing the other way.”

White is side­lined with a torn plan­tar fas­cia in his left heel, which an MRI exam con­firmed Fri­day. At first, Popovich said the in­jury could cost the 24-year-old White six to eight weeks of re­cov­ery time. Later, Popovich said a quicker re­cov­ery could be pos­si­ble.

White’s in­jury came in the Spurs’ 130-127 pre­sea­son loss to At­lanta on Wed­nes­day. The sec­ond-year pro was mak­ing his first start at point guard, hav­ing taken over for Mur­ray, who had suf­fered a sea­son-end­ing knee in­jury in Sun­day’s loss to Hous­ton.

Two days be­fore Mur­ray went down, the Spurs lost Walker, their rookie phe­nom, to a torn menis­cus in his right knee. He could be out for six weeks as well af­ter surgery.

Fri­day in Or­lando, Bryn Forbes be­came the third player to start at point guard for the Spurs in as many games. Popovich said he was look­ing for­ward to the chal­lenge of piec­ing to­gether a new new-look ro­ta­tion.

“It will make it fun,” Popovich said.

Over the past week, the Spurs have al­ready had their fill of Popovich’s brand of “fun.”

The Spurs also played Fri­day with­out Rudy Gay, the vet­eran for­ward who had been their lead­ing scorer through­out the first four pre­sea­son games.

Gay, 32, was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sore­ness in the right heel that had caused him to miss 25 games last sea­son with bur­si­tis. With the hexed week the Spurs had just en­dured, Popovich was in no mood to place an­other starter in harm’s way.

“I just can’t take a chance on some­one else get­ting hurt,” Popovich said.

There is lit­tle doubt a rash of in­juries at the same po­si­tion this close to the start of the sea­son will have a neg­a­tive im­pact on a Spurs team many pun­dits pre­dicted to miss the West­ern Con­fer­ence play­offs at full strength.

Mur­ray was sup­posed to be the team’s start­ing point guard, hav­ing as­sumed the man­tle from Parker last sea­son. White and Walker were ex­pected to in­ject youth and ath­leti­cism into the Spurs’ bench unit.

Now the Spurs have been forced to find a player to fill the shoes of the guy who was fill­ing the shoes of the guy who was fill­ing the shoes of a fu­ture Hall of Famer in Parker.

“It’s crush­ing,” Or­lando coach Steve Clif­ford said. “You have to have eight or nine guys play well in order to win con­sis­tently. When you take one of those guys out, it changes ev­ery­thing. You can’t lose a guy like Mur­ray and not have it im­pact your whole group.”

Af­ter the week that was for the Spurs, Fri­day be­came a mat­ter of sim­ply mak­ing it out of Or­lando with what re­mained of the ros­ter still in one piece.

Forbes and Patty Mills will play point guard spot for now, though nei­ther is suited for the role.

Popovich said the Spurs would mon­i­tor the freeagent pool to see if they might be able to add a vet­eran body to help bol­ster the po­si­tion. The team will also in­ves­ti­gate trade op­tions to help them tread wa­ter un­til in­jured play­ers re­turn.

“It’s tough, be­cause we lit­er­ally don’t have a pure point guard right now,” Ga­sol said. “We’ll fig­ure it out. Life gives you curve balls and you have to be able to ad­just.”

Fri­day night, 275 miles north up I-35 from San An­to­nio, a player who once was the Spurs’ every night answer at point was play­ing for his new team.

The Char­lotte Hor­nets were in Dal­las to face the Mav­er­icks.

Parker was with them. The so­lu­tion to the Spurs’ point guard trou­bles was so close, yet so far away.

Staff file photo

Der­rick White has joined Lon­nie Walker and De­jounte Mur­ray on the list of in­jured Spurs guards.

Jerry Lara / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Der­rick White gets be­tween Hous­ton’s P.J. Tucker, left, and James Har­den dur­ing Sun­day’s game.

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