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Injuries hurting Spurs, Cavs

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Spurs Face Challenging Week Without Manu Ginobili

Whenever possible, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich tries to rest his veteran star trio of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. In fact, it cost the Spurs franchise $250,000 earlier this season when Popovich didn't bring any of those three to Miami for a Thursday night national TV game and potential NBA Finals preview.

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Well, if you want to know why Popovich is extra cautious, it was crystal clear on Sunday night when the 35-year-old Ginobili strained his left hamstring late in the first half of a 106-88 victory over Minnesota. The team is calling it a Grade 1 sprain and the Argentine will miss anywhere from 10-14 days. Ginobili has missed four games already this season as he has dealt with injuries ranging from back spasms to a quadriceps bruise and a thigh bruise.

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The versatile Ginobili is averaging 12.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists as the sixth man for San Antonio, which has the NBA's top bench in terms of scoring. He has never come close to playing a full regular season due to injury. The most games Ginobili has played was 80-of-82 two seasons ago.

San Antonio is 2-2 this season (1-2-1 ATS) in games in which Ginobili didn't play a minute. The Spurs opened the season with wins over New Orleans and Oklahoma City while waiting for Ginobili to debut. They lost that game at Miami without their three stars and also lost 107-93 at Oklahoma City on December 17 in the last game Ginobili missed. Overall, the Spurs are 89-52 without Ginobili in his career.

This week, the Spurs host Memphis on Wednesday, host Golden State on Friday and visit Atlanta on Saturday. All are well above .500 and likely playoff locks. The Spurs and Grizzlies have played two overtime games thus far, with San Antonio winning by four at home on December 1 and losing by three at Memphis last Friday. The Spurs, who enter the week tied for the most ATS wins in the NBA at 23, haven't yet faced the vastly improved Warriors or the Hawks. Even with Ginobili, the Spurs have been a bit uneven of late, alternating wins and losses in the past seven games (3-4 ATS).

Cavs NBA's Worst Team Without Varejao?

The Cleveland Cavaliers didn't expect to be a playoff team this season but certainly expected improvement with Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson in their second seasons and rookies Dion Waiters (Syracuse) and Tyler Zeller (North Carolina) joining the team. Yet again Cleveland is among the NBA's worst clubs and now its best trade chip, power forward Anderson Varejao, is out for two months.

Varejao hurt his knee December 18 against the Raptors but it wasn't thought to be serious, being diagnosed as a bruise. Varejao couldn't get back on the court and last week it was determined he would undergo surgery on a split muscle in his right quadriceps. It's the third-straight season Varejao has needed some sort of surgery.

When he went down, the 6-foot-11 center was averaging an NBA-high 14.4 rebounds along with 14.1 points and 3.4 assists. He was on pace to be named an All-Star. Since the injury, the Cavs are 4-9 (6-7 ATS) entering Monday's matchup in Sacramento. They have the NBA's worst home record at 4-12 (also 4-12 ATS). Now, it's unlikely another team would trade for Varejao this season. His earliest return date is February 21, which is the trade deadline.

The Cavs say they weren't actively seeking a trade, but Varejao is 30 and has one season on his current contract with a team option for 2014-15 worth $9.8 million. He might not fit on a team rebuilding and looking to get younger. Already there have been reports the Cavs demanded young point guard Eric Bledsoe and center DeAndre Jordan in return for Varejao. The Clippers would never give that much even though Varejao could put a weak rebounding contender over the top (Clippers are middle-of-the-pack).

Most rebounding-challenged contenders (Heat, Celtics to name two) don't have the assets or cap room to make a trade. The one positive of Varejao's extended absence is it will improve the Cavs' chances of landing the No. 1 pick in the draft for the second time in three seasons. For bettors, look for Cleveland to continue to struggle ATS without its best frontcourt player.

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