Feb. 3, 2011: Tony Parker tries to flash to the cup in L.A. He won't be flashing for a few games at least.
Who’s taking care of Tony Parker’s strained calf? I know one person who’s probably staying away—maybe two.
The Spurs better be taking care of Tony or they can kiss their title chances au revoir—French, for goodbye. Tony Parker’s from France—get it?
Get this—the Spurs now face their first real adversity of the 2010-11 season. The NBA will be watching to see how they respond. Hit by an injury to a key starter for the first time this year, San Antonio now theoretically knows how other teams feel.
The Lakers were without Andrew Bynum for 24 games and have still managed to post over 40 wins. Reports of their sudden death have been greatly exaggerated. Heading into the regular season’s final stretch, they’re now healthier than the Spurs.
It’d be a stretch to say the Lakers—or any other NBA teams—have any sympathy for the Spurs. There’s little crying or b-wording in basketball.
Speaking of B-words, Boston started the year without Kendrick Perkins. They also lost the O’Neals—Jermaine and Shaq—along with Delonte West and Marquis Daniels to injuries. Forced to retool their roster, the Celtics still have title hopes.
Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki was hoping for a healthy body while riding the bench because of an injury earlier this season. They’re hoping to catch the Spurs and take over the No. 1 seed.
Houston lost Yao Ming in the first month and fell off largely because of it. They traded Aaron Brooks and are looking forward to next season.
And Portland? Well, they’ve been without Greg Oden for almost forever and Brandon Roy for almost longer. The seasoned Marcus Camby is also injured. The Trail Blazers beat the Spurs on February 1, and they play two more times in March. The Blazers still hope to make a splash in the playoffs.
For the Spurs’ part, their anxiety level has to be on the rise, while their confidence has to be on the decline without Parker. Let’s be honest—the Spurs are not likely to win an NBA Championship this season without “Pretty Tony.”
He was the MVP of the ugly for Cleveland in the 2007 NBA Finals and is still the quickest player the Spurs have. He was their catalyst for the blitzkrieg fast break—averaging 17.1 points and 6.6 dishes—starting the offense before defenders were set.
With his razzle-dazzle, the Spurs were a higher-scoring team than they’ve normally been in the Tim Duncan era. Now, the offense goes through Duncan—sometimes. Manu Ginobili has taken over the role of closer in some games this year—especially in the game Parker got injured.
According to the L.A. Times’ Lakers blog, Ginobili was sizzling when Parker was injured last year. Averaging 22.1 points, 5.8 assists and shooting 51.7 percent from the field—44.1 percent from three-point range—he held Parker down.
With Parker sidelined, Roger Mason Jr. was occasionally forced to play point guard. He’s been sighted playing in the NBA—a year ago.
He found difficulty in attempting to kick the ball to wide-open Spurs shooters. And when he was down due to poor shooting, Spurs fans kicked him almost more than Richard Jefferson.
The Spurs were 11-5 in the 16 games Parker missed last March and April because of a broken hand. They dropped defeats on the Magic, the Cavs, the Celtics and the Lakers while he was out.
This year is different, however, due to the Los Angeles Lakers defending five trophies (three Western Conference and two NBA Finals). They appear to be hitting their stride and face the Spurs on Sunday afternoon.
San Antonio’s stakes are striding forward daily. The Spurs are getting opposing teams' best efforts nightly. Los Spurs are los targets (French pronunciation). After fighting for bottom-rung playoff position last year, they’re battling for the No. 1 seed this year.
Parker’s injury means fast-break points and assists could dramatically decrease. The close games the Spurs were winning could possibly become defeats. San Antonio won 50 games last year and will match the total with their next victory.
They’re trying to hold on to the No. 1 seed in the league—something they’ve balled hard in the paint for this year. Usually the Spurs do well in the playoffs as the No. 1 seed, but they’ve won a championship when they weren’t.
Zero Spurs, though, can speed from midcourt to a baseline layup faster than the three-time NBA champion Parker. I believe he’ll be mandated for ample time to heal. Instead of taking a chance on tweaking injuries, the Spurs usually wait it out.
Tony started every game this season until his injury against Memphis. The Spurs haven’t made a roster move yet, but I half-expect them to sign an Austin Toro and Garrett Temple is a likely candidate.
George Hill, Manu Ginobili and probably Chris Quinn, meanwhile, will share point guard responsibilities. Here’s a word of advice to you guys—kick the ball to shooters and don’t kick yourself when your down.
A healthy mind goes with a sound game. We can thank the unusual health of the Spurs this season for them shocking the world and returning to NBA relevance. Basketball life was overly good for them until Parker went down.
Take my advice, Tony, and stay off your feet. You'd be foolish not to listen to me.
Speaking of down for now, it’s time for me to put my pen to rest. Until the next time we go Reasoning on the Riverwalk—good living and good health.