When Manu Ginobili went down with a thumb injury earlier this season, it seemed to spell trouble for the San Antonio Spurs.
However, the injury meant something else for most of the Spurs’ role-players — particularly Danny Green and Gary Neal.
Sure, the Spurs handled Manu’s absence by committee, but Neal and Green had arguably the biggest shoes to fill. (With all due respects to Tiago Splitter, Kawhi Leonard, DeJuan Blair and Matt Bonner.)
Let’s start with Green.
After playing only eight games for the Spurs last season, Green has assumed Manu’s role of sorts.
The athletic wingman responded with his great defensive tenacity and fearlessness on both ends of the floor.
For the season, Green has averaged 7.4 points and 3.4 rebounds in 28 games. An admirable accomplishment considering he was not a part of the Spurs’ regular rotation last year.
Besides his defense, Green also proved that he can provide some offense when.
He scored a career-high 24 points in a win against Denver, 13 points and six boards in a come from behind victory against Portland and 20 points against Miami.
Now that Ginobili has returned, Green who started in two straight games aims to keep a grip on playing time and continue to help his team win more games.
Coach Gregg Popovich said he admired Green’s willingness to “let it fly.”
“It does show certain confidence in one’s abilities, he’s not awed by the challenge of making it in the NBA. It’s important you see someone has that in their system, that fire.” Popovich said.
How about Neal?
After a slow start this season, the Spurs’ 3-point gunner is back in the groove.
In 28 games this season, Neal has averaged 9.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 21 minutes of play. Those numbers are almost identical to what he has done last season proving that he is indeed a reliable reserve.
More importantly, Neal is on a hot streak lately.
He is averaging 10.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 assist in the last five games including back-to-back 18 point games, where he shot an impressive 14-of-19 from the field, making 6-of-8 three-pointers over that span.
If San Antonio intends to be one of the West’s top contenders and later on make a deep playoff run, they will need their role players to stay confident and keep doing their jobs.
Luckily for them, Green and Neal are doing just that.