Game 1 of the NBA Finals is just hours away, and the status of Tony Parker's ankle is still uncertain. Per Yahoo.com's Marc J. Spears, Parker is scheduled to play in tonight's game. But even Parker isn't sure just how reliable his ankle will be:
A little bit because you never know how it's going to feel. But I'm trying to be very positive, trying to do everything I can, eat healthy, get my rest, do all the treatment. I just trust my body.
1. Exactly how healthy is Parker?
The facts are well documented: Parker sprained his ankle in the San Antonio Spurs' first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks and then re-aggravated it in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He didn't play in the second half of the Spurs' clinching Game 6 win.
Now with five days of rest, Parker and the Spurs insist that he'll be ready to go. But what exactly does that mean? Will he be the dynamic, shifty point guard who pulled off the impossible game-winning shot in Game 1 of the Finals last year? Or will he be a shell of his normal self, reduced to a minimal role? We'll find out very soon.
2. Can he play defense?
If Parker does play significant minutes, will he be reliable on defense? Sure, the Spurs are an immensely talented offensive team, as evidenced by their .486 field goal percentage during the regular season. But they also held opponents to a .444 percentage, good for eighth in the league.
If the Spurs hope to usurp the defending champions and exact revenge, they'll need to be efficient on both sides of the ball. All it takes is one slow rotation on defense for LeBron James to make you pay.
3. If Parker can't play, who will receive his minutes?
Patty Mills played quality minutes off the bench this season, averaging 10.2 points and with an 18.80 PER according to ESPN. Still, Mills doesn't possess Parker's championship pedigree. If Mills has to play more minutes than he's accustomed to under the bright lights, will he able to handle the pressure?
4. What if he re-injures himself?
He's already aggravated the injury once; how devastating would a second setback be? For a player like Parker, the ability to change speeds and make quick decisions in mid-air is essential. It's very possible that he could become overly aggressive in Game 1 and roll the ankle again. I don't think the Spurs want to imagine trying to knock off the Miami Heat without Parker.
Which leads me to my last, all-encompassing point:
5. Can the Spurs function without Parker?
Going off of my last question; if Parker does re-injure himself and is forced to sit out any amount of time in the series, the Spurs would likely have a difficult time toppling the Heat.
Granted, the team has played well in stretches without Parker; Manu Ginobili is a very capable ball-handler and has the ability to take over games. But in a seven-game series against possibly the best team of the millennium so far, the Spurs will want to be at full strength.
Parker may not be the Spurs' best player—see 38-year-old freak Tim Duncan. But if they want to have a chance, they'll want the dynamic Parker on the court as often as possible to spearhead the offense.