When John Stockton reached his mid-30s, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan devised a system to optimize his playing time and minimize wear and tear. So Stockton would play the first six minutes of every Jazz game, then sit for the next 10 minutes, regardless of how each game may have turned while he rested.
Sloan had automatic in-out points for Stockton in the second half, too, rarely deviating, even when leads diminished or deficits grew. And practice? Stockton never scrimmaged during his final few seasons.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who counts Sloan among the coaches he most respects and admires, also understands the importance of monitoring the minutes of his most important players. What happened with Manu Ginobili in the Western Conference finals likely reinforced his belief in the importance of getting his key players to the postseason as fresh as possible.
Don't be surprised if Popovich monitors Ginobili's minutes strictly next season. It may be time to start holding him out of the second game of back-to-back sets, perhaps shutting him down for two or three games at a time, depending on the schedule.
It's risky in a super-competitive Western Conference. But if the Spurs want the full Manu for their playoff push, it may be the only way.