It could not have come at a worse time. As the San Antonio Spurs tried to prove their dominance in a Western Conference meeting with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday Night, Kawhi Leonard suffered a non-displaced fracture of the fourth metacarpal on his right hand. But the injury to the Spurs star may just clear the path for a long awaited opportunity.
Leonard is just the latest casualty in the Spurs lineup, but with many injuries to crucial players, less likely players will have the chance to gain experience. Patty Mills will undeniably play a key role off the bench in the postseason, and he can start preparing for those situations now. While Leonard is out, Mills will have to be more aggressive on offense and adjust to playing longer stretches. His 8.2 points per game is a career-high this season, but the Spurs will need more production.
Center-forward Jeff Ayres is still forming his identity with the Spurs, but the newly acquired post presence can use this unexpected time to carry more responsibility on both sides of the ball. His 0.2 blocks per game and 3.8 boards per game must increase in the absence of injured players.
Gregg Popovich will have to ask more of his reserves in hopes that they will produce. Players like Aron Baynes, Corey Joseph and Nando De Colo will probably see more minutes than Pop expected. But dichotomy of the situation will automatically create accountability and confidence for the players who might not get the same chance with a healthy Spurs roster.
Only time will tell what diamond in the rough may be hidden, but Popovich has a system built for any diamond willing to work their way into the lineup.