Tony Parker's Ankle Injury Should Not Impact Play During 2014 NBA Finals

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Tony Parker's Ankle Injury Should Not Impact Play During 2014 NBA Finals
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As the NBA Finals open on Thursday evening, the only physical question for the San Antonio Spurs is how close to 100 percent Tony Parker will be.

Parker had a moderate ankle sprain in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder and was hobbled somewhat for Game 6. Per ESPN, however, "[Gregg] Popovich said Parker sprained the ankle in Game 4 and aggravated it in Game 5." Parker himself even admits that he may have injured the ankle in the conference semifinals against Portland, which could have aggravated his hamstring injury.

He was able to play through Game 5 before the swelling got problematic, but by game time for Game 6 of the conference finals, Parker didn't think he could play. He played the first half of the game but did not play in the second half.

Here's what Parker had to say, via The Associated Press:

I twisted it again, but didn't say anything. Played on it, and then Game 6 I think my body is like, "That's enough." It's perfect timing to get five days and to get better and to be ready for Game 1.

With five days of rest and time for head athletic trainer Will Sevening and the Spurs medical staff to work, Parker should be very close to full-go for the series.

NBA.com's Steve Aschburner makes a great point in discussing Tony Parker's injury when writing, "no one is at his peak, health-wise, by June of the NBA season and postseason." Parker won't be the only one playing at less than full strength.

With the time between the last game of the conference finals and the first game of the NBA Finals, the rest was probably the largest part of Parker's recovery. However, that doesn't mean that Parker or the medical staff sat back and waited. Instead, they used a combination of therapies and modalities to help Parker's ankle heal more completely in the allotted time.

The Spurs likely used a combination of compression, ice and a technique known as iontophoresis, which has long been a favorite of Sevening's. (Full disclosure: Sevening is a graduate of the U.S. Sports Academy, where he learned to be an athletic trainer under Dr. William Carroll. That's my father.) The Spurs have a full complement of devices and techniques in their training room, but those were likely the keys for getting the swelling down and returning Parker to function.

The key now is to make sure that Parker doesn't re-injure the ankle.

The Spurs have done well keeping his hamstring functional during the playoffs, though it could be that some dysfunction there contributed to his ankle injury, or vice versa. The mechanism of his ankle injury is a simple roll, so it's hard to say that there's a direct interrelation.

Parker will very likely have some type of bracing under his sock for Game 1 and beyond. In Game 6 against the Thunder, he had some sort of bulky bracing, which could have either been a pre-made brace or a strapping of athletic tape, though the bulk leads me to believe that he had something more like this brace in Game 6.

With the rest and treatment, he will likely have a much less bulky support system of either a lace-up design or tape.

Functionally, Parker should nearly have full mobility though he might have some residual pain and soreness. He could be slightly limited on lateral mobility, especially stops and starts involving his left ankle. If the defense can shade Parker and force him to go to his right, there could be a step lost, but that's a gamble. Until game time, the defender won't know just how much slower, if at all, Parker will be. 

It is extremely unlikely that Parker will need or would accept a painkiller injection before the game. It would be very difficult and dangerous for Parker to play without being able to feel the ankle. It would limit his mobility, slow his movements and reactions, and make it more likely that he could re-injure the ankle by blocking the body's signals. 

The biggest things to watch for with Parker will be his ability to drive and how the team manages his playing time. Expect Parker to show some reluctance to get into the paint, where it is more likely he would step on another player's shoe or get pushed into awkward movements that could cause re-injury.

The Spurs will also have to watch for how Parker's ankle reacts to bench time. With rest, the ankle could begin to swell, so watch to see if Parker is forced over to the exercise bike or elliptical, which wouldn't allow him the same kind of rest as normal.

Parker will be ready to go, largely through rest and treatment from the time of injury.

The Spurs medical staff does a great job keeping the roster functional despite heavy demands of maintenance. Part of the team's almost-corporate approach to the game is reflected here, as the medical side is handled not as an adjunct of sports, but as an important part of the operation.

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