When big news breaks in the NBA, Right Down Euclid’s Chris Manning and RDE editor Zak Kolesar have you covered. In this edition of “Countertop Conversation,” Chris and Zak discuss Spurs point guard Tony Parker’s ankle injury.
The San Antonio Spurs are currently the top team in the stacked Western Conference. However, during a 120-103 win over the Sacramento Kings, Parker suffered a grade II ankle injury that will keep him out for at least one month. At the time of the injury, the 30-year-old Parker was averaging 21.1 points and 7.6 assists in 56 games.
Chris Manning: With Tony Parker injured in San Antonio, I think the West is more open than ever. If he is out a full month as expected, then things are going to get interesting. As good as the Spurs are, Parker makes them run. Without him, they have no floor general. And it just so happens that the two teams right below them have elite point guards on their roster.
Zak Kolesar: Parker is without a doubt having one of the best seasons of his illustrious career. He is setting career marks in points (second-best average), assists (second-past average), free throw percentage (best mark of his career), three-point percentage (second-best mark of his career) and field goal percentage (second-best mark of his career). Fans constantly imply that the Spurs are going to hit their downswing anytime now, but the young starting talent that they are putting around Parker will keep him and the team viable for years. The Spurs have also shown that they can win against the better teams in the league without their star players. Give him a month of rest, then bring him back just in time for playoff mode to set in.
CM: But look at it this way: the next month is key as the playoffs draw nearer. As it stands, the Thunder are three games back and the Clippers are 3.5 back. In March, they play the Thunder, Clippers, Warriors, Nuggets, Jazz, Mavericks and Heat – all teams in or on the edge of making the playoffs. If his recovery and return is delayed at all into April, games against the Grizzlies and Thunder linger. This is the time of year when the Spurs will need to lock down their top seed – not have to fall behind and then work back up. Comparatively, the Thunder (the main threat to the top seed) have two games against the lowly Magic and also play the Wizards and Timberwolves. In my opinion, this is an awful time for Parker to go down.
ZK: Yes, it definitely hurts their chances of retaining that No. 1 seed, but we’ve seen the Spurs handle all types of diverse situations before. Patty Mills, Cory Joseph and Nando de Colo will be the candidates to take Parker’s spot, but I feel like it will be more of a combined effort from the three. This could throw off chemistry, and Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan have also been in and out this season. The only teams I see surpassing the Spurs are the Thunder and possibly the Clippers. That’s because they now have the advantage at point guard like you said. However, I believe that we will see tremendous growth in the play of Leonard and Green. This might not be a bad thing if Parker is out for a month at the most.
CM: But if you are San Antonio, with Tim Duncan at the twilight of his long and storied NBA career, is it not more important to get the No. 1 seed in the West than any other goals? This may be the best Spurs team in years, and with Parker having one of his best season, it’s entirely possible that this is their last real shot at a title. Getting Oklahoma City or Los Angeles to have to play a Game 7 in Texas is much better than having to travel and play in hostile territory. Just think about playing a finale in Oklahoma City. That crowd will be rabid and that gives the Thunder an advantage they may not even need.
ZK: Obviously the No. 1 seed was important for the Spurs to lock down, but you can’t dwell on that. What has happened to Parker has happened, and they are handling it the right way by keeping it safe. A month’s time will give Parker the sufficient rest going into the postseason to lead his team in familiar situations. I wouldn’t want to be the team traveling to OKC for Game 7, so I think that will motivate players off the bench to step up. The most important goal for the Spurs (or any team) is winning the championship. San Antonio has locked up the No. 1 seed the last two years with nothing to show for it. But how bad does it look now that San Antonio didn’t make a move before the deadline?
CM: It’s hard me to agree with that. First off, you can’t predict injuries and any rumored deal for the Spurs (i.e. Josh Smith) would not have fixed this issue. This team is built around their long-standing core of Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Parker. Any trade that was floated out there does not fix Parker’s injuries. In my mind, we are really going to find out what this Spurs team is about. There have been games this year where Gregg Popovich has rested one or two of his stars, but they’ve never had to go a full month without one. And in my mind, Parker is the most important. He sets the tempo, sets the tone and is playing great basketball. This is all about the bench guys. In my mind, I’m not quite sure they’ll be able to hold that top seed. That doesn’t bode well for June.
ZK: But San Antonio knew that with matching up against the Thunder last season that they needed something more to oust them in the playoffs. Now that the Thunder are a much better passing team from what they were last season (ranked dead last in APG in the Association), they may be able to overcome the Spurs in that category (they currently rank first this season in APG). Ginobili dishes out the ball fairly well, but we will have to see him much more involved in the offense in the coming months if the Spurs are going to continue to compete for that No. 1 seed. It’s not out of the question, but maybe this will be a good challenge for a team that has been the NBA’s most consistent in the last decade or so. It’s a different situation for them, and it could help them grow just in time for the postseason. Duncan’s involvement will skyrocket (he ranks third on the team in assists), which, on the other hand, may cause fatigue issues.
CM: All in all, I think we both can agree that this is going to be an interesting month. So many questions come out of this injury. For example, how will the Spurs play without their leader? Who will step up in his place? And can they hold off the Thunder? I really can’t wait to find out.