Gary Neal’s appendix and James Anderson’s playing time



Having an appendix removed only means Gary Neal just got a quicker release. (Photo credit: Gameface-Photos)

News came out late yesterday afternoon that Gary Neal had his appendix removed. Neal apparently began feeling pains on Sunday night and on Monday a decision was made to have his appendix removed. The pains were a result of his inflamed appendix, they didn’t make an arbitrary decision just to remove his appendix or anything like that. According to the team, Neal will be out of action for a week and then team doctors will decide his next course of action, or how much longer he’ll have to sit out.

Upon first thought, this isn’t great news. San Antonio’s first preseason game is Saturday night in Houston and the team has only been practicing since Friday. Any missed time in such a short training camp can hurt. Likewise if he misses any regular season time. Ideally you want a full squad for all of training camp and preseason to get a rhythm, in shape and off to a good start when the season begins.

But then again it may not be all bad,  health issues aside. Neal was a mainstay in the rotation last year. He didn’t go through many of the rookie growing pains that a lot of Spurs do (See: Splitter, Tiago). He had a good grasp of the system and never fell into Pop’s doghouse of guys who didn’t know what they were doing. And he hit big shots. Boy, did he hit big shots. If any role player had a set spot in the lineup, it was Gary Neal.

James Anderson, on the other hand, is in a precarious situation. Through the first handful of games last season, he looked like he was going to have a solid foot in the rotation. He was playing well for the Spurs, especially for a rookie. Then he broke his foot and the wheels fell off of last season for James. He had surgery on his foot and sat for several months. When he finally returned in the new year, he played a handful of D-League games in Austin to get back in shape and never found a consistent spot on the floor back with the Spurs. By the time he was fully healthy, the season’s ship had sailed for Anderson and he didn’t have sufficient time to earn Pop’s trust.

Coming into this season, with the shortened training camp and compressed season, I had some concern that Anderson might not be a preferred member in the rotation. I would guess he was third on the depth chart at the shooting guard position, behind Neal and Manu Ginobili, and possibly third at the small forward spot behind Richard Jefferson and Kawhi Leonard. One of my fears this season is that Pop doesn’t feel this season is adequately long enough for him to develop a rotation and players he trusts. That instead he’ll fall back on last season and prefer generally the same rotation. This season kicks off, after all, just a few weeks before Pop normally has his rotation and preferences in mind during a full 82 game slate.

James Anderson needed every chance he could get to shine. With Neal out for at least a week, Anderson temporarily slides up the depth chart right behind Manu. Junction James will have plenty of reps with the second team in training camp and in Saturday’s game against the Rockets to convince Pop he’s a worthy member of this year’s rotation, and not simply a player for future consideration.

  • Titletown9903057d

    We better not go in there with last years rotation and expect to get 60 wins. The playoffs exposed us for what we really are. A bad 3 point shooting team  (see Bonner) not to mention a bad front court (See Bonner and Blair).

    We really need to ride Splitter out until his wheels fall off. Play him hard and use him long minutes. Hopefully JA and KL can add to the 3 point shooting punch. That will spread the floor.

  • Len

    Anderson and Leonard bring much needed athleticism to the wing.  See: Failed Project, RJ.  The Spurs need BOTH of them on the defensive side of the ball.  Imagine a Spurs team that put constant defensive pressure on the perimeter.  Us fans haven’t seen it in a while, much like we haven’t seen playoff success in a while.  Coincidence?  Perhaps.

  • Andrew A. McNeill

    Tim and I talked about it on a podcast a few weeks ago (, but we both love the effort James Anderson gives on the defensive end. While he’s not the biggest or quickest shooting guard in the league, he seems to make plays on that end through sheer will. I think the Spurs will be an improved defensive team if he plays a lot.

  • manufan

    I would like to see that defensive presence, with Dany Green also in the mix. One thing I don’t wanna see is RJ playing any minutes. Shelf his asss and let him rot at the end of the bench. Bonner should only play if his 3pts are going in, and if not then put his asss next to RJ’s.

  • DorieStreet

    66 games, with 35 of them in  back-to-back pairings and 6 games into 2 groups of 3 games in 3 nights-this will be an abnormal season–which calls for Pop to break away from his traditional “rookies/young players get little time on the court” M.O.

  • Ryan McShane

    Anderson will have his chances regardless of Neal’s status – you know Pop is going to sit Parker, Ginobili, and Duncan and select nights… and maybe even RJ?! We’ll see.

  • Timmay

    I really thought Coach Pop would play Anderson over Neal anyway – despite his heroics Neal has some deficiencies and played too much minutes sometimes. Anderson is a first rounder and should add plenty to the team if healthy and in shape …

  • Anonymous

    I don’t want too much burden being placed on Splitter. Listen, this isn’t a contending team. What’s important is a) developing guys, and b) avoiding injuries. The latter is a bigger threat this year given the increased physiological strain of a packed schedule, multiplied against reduced and insufficient recovery times.

    In Splitter’s case, we certainly need him to take a larger role and to give him and TD the best chance to mesh. However, I do NOT want to think about his “wheels falling off” but would love it if the staff approaches this schedule almost as a training and conditioning schedule… With guys emerging at season’s end not only smarter, but with fitter, stronger, more durable ankles, knees, backs, shoulders, you name it, “shocks and axles” if you will, according to the dynamics of tissue repair. When young guys and imports from Europe are faced with a regular NBA season, you see casualties, that’s a bigger threat for everyone this year. There’s a reason beefy guys like Malone, Howard, Artest, RJ are less likely to be injured: their bodies are prepared for the stresses.

    Given this roster (or, ahem, the lack of changes to it), if there ever was a season to give Bonner minutes, it’s this season. If we have any chance at a deeper playoff run, it will be a result of being healthier than the competition.

    For the record, I also really, really want to see Anderson get a sizable role as well, and am rooting for KL and hopefully a Butler or Green to surprise the league and make us better when they get on the floor. Defense on 3!

  • Bob

    I think him and Leonard playing helps RJ by pushing him to play better. Part of the downside of the Spurs not having a true backup SF was that there was no body to push RJ in practice and for playing time. That competition helps your starters play better especially on the defensive end.

  • Andrew A. McNeill

    This is a very good point.

  • Bob

    I don’t think Pop should have any body penciled in a role outside of the Parker, Ginobili, and TD. He should let everybody else compete for the remaining roles. You want guys to play hard and earn their roles. I think he’s done that too much in the past especially with Bonner. He’s got to adjust his gameplan to guys that are going to play hardest and defend the best instead of insisting on playing a certain player.

  • Tyler

    Bonner’s issue isn’t effort, it’s simply limited physical ability. 

    If Bonner is the 5th big on the team, playing 10 minutes per game, he’s can be a useful weapon. The problem is he’s the 3rd big being asked to play 25 minutes a game. In that role, his effectiveness is limited. 

    I’m all for Bonner’s role being limited to 10 mpg, but that necessitates other guys stepping up, which has yet to happen. Blair didn’t show much improvement in his sophomore year and while I think Splitter proved a lot during the Memphis series, it remains to be seen if he can play effectively with TD.

    We’ll see what transpires. If nothing else, we’ll need Bonner to eat up minutes in a compact, 66 game season. 

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  • Craig Thomas

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. Have you seen Splitter offensively in the post? He was TERRIBLE last year. I don’t want Splitter doing anything offensively unless it is off the pick-and-roll or the on the offensive glass. Until he develops some better low-post feel, he is a hazard especially when you factor in his poor FT shooting. Splitter obviously needs more minutes, but anything North of 25-28 would be offensive suicide for the Spurs. This is not to mention the foul trouble Splitter finds himself in for trying that Euro-flop half of the time. Splitter needs time to adjust but should not be thrown to the wovles this season.

  • Len

    I agree that Splitter looked “out of sorts” on the offensive side of the ball. (and that’s putting it kindly)  But part of the blame goes straight to Pop.  Splitter is not being used effectively, at all.  Tiago is a skilled passer and quite frankly, can dribble pretty good for a big guy.  

    I’ve been preaching on this subject for over a year now.  Pop and Tiago can co-exist if Pop decides to use one of them on the hi-block, which facilitates the hi-lo post entry.  Timmy and David did it during their time together and it was a thing of beauty.  Pop has gotten lazy and fallen in love with the hi pick and roll.

    Dust off the playbook Pop and use Tiago correctly!  

  • Len

    “Pop and Tiago can co-exist” = Timmy and Tiago, obviously

  • Hobson13

    Throwing Splitter to the wolves?  Splitter is 27 years old with years of playing experience in Europe and 1 year of NBA experience.  Besides, we’ve already taken the kid glove approach with Splitter on the bench while Bonner and Blair got torched in the post time and time again (see Grizzlies, first round).  Sure Splitter isn’t an offensive force, but we’ll surround Splitter with 4 other guys who can score.  We don’t need offense from Splitter but defense and rebounding.  He needs to play at least 28-32 min/game this year.  Absolutely nothing less.