Tony Parker pauses to catch a breath during EuroBasket 2013 (Getty Images)
On September 30, the San Antonio Spurs will convene at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. for Media Day, taking team pictures and filming all sorts of season-long promotional clips. The following day, the Spurs will take part in two practice sessions as the 2013 NBA training camp commences. Another two-a-day follows on Wednesday, and the Spurs will sweat through the work week in Colorado before heading home to San Antonio for the rest of their training camp, prior to an eight-game exhibition schedule that bleeds right into an 82-game regular season that the Spurs hope will lead to yet another eight-week playoff run.
I’m winded just typing that out. The Spurs, full of San Antonio legends in either their early or mid 30s, are probably winded just thinking about it. Especially following a 103-game regular and postseason churn in 2012-13 that ended just over three months ago.
Tony Parker followed that run with a championship turn in the EuroBasket Tournament, which ended on Sunday. Parker’s French men’s team prevailed, but not before the veteran’s legs started to feel the effects of the 11-game run to the gold. In the championship game, following Parker’s 32-point performance in a win over Spain, Tony admitted that he needed a little help from another NBA-level teammate. From Mark Woods at ESPN:
The San Antonio Spurs guard, already feeling fatigue in every muscle, had prepared his teammates for this, right from when they went into the locker room some 46 hours earlier following an exhausting overtime win over Spain in the semifinal.
He walked straight over to Nicolas Batum. The Trail Blazers forward had contributed just three points toward the conquest of the reigning champions. "I did everything I could today to win the game," Parker told him. "But I'm going to be tired. I need you to be The Man in the final."
Parker had received a bit of a plea from longtime San Antonio Spurs general manager R.C. Buford in the days leading up to the semifinal win over Spain, as Woods referenced last week:
"I saw R.C.," Parker said. "He wants me to play less minutes to be ready for the Spurs next season. But I have a great relationship with the Spurs. I'm very lucky to have R.C. and Coach Pop to let me play for my country. They know that I love playing for my country.
"I take a lot of pride playing for France. I'm just happy that I have the Spurs organization to let me do that."
Tony averaged 29 minutes a game in the tourney, which spread those 11 games out over just 18 days. Luckily for Parker’s wheels, Sunday’s championship clincher was a blowout win, which somewhat let Parker off the hook for his 6-17 shooting and relatively pedestrian 12-point output. Batum ended up leading his team in scoring with 17 points, as France took home their first EuroBasket title.
And then, camp in a week. So much for time off.
Parker seems to have the right attitude about 2012-13’s just-miss, but no amount of scheduled nights off and minutes per game caps will prevent severe fatigue for the waterbug guard in 2013-14. It’s true that Parker is both used to playing deep into June and also working double time in international ball in the “offseason,” but this is the farthest his French national team has ever gone in a tourney, and two quick turnarounds in a row (San Antonio played three rounds of playoff basketball in 2012, followed by the Olympics) in your early 30s is not the same as attempting as much in your mid-20s.
(Parker’s EuroBasket run was also not without controversy, as he was quoted as calling his team the French version of a homosexual slur after its comeback win over Spain, something Tony immediately and appropriately apologized for.)
The issue here is that the San Antonio Spurs hope to be playing basketball almost exactly nine months from today.
They hope to rack up their second straight 100-game season (following the rushed 80-game regular and playoff turn during the 2011-12 lockout season), relying on veterans Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili to do the heavy lifting. Spurs fans may celebrate the ascension of Kawhi Leonard and the reliability of all the other significant roster contributors Buford and coach Gregg Popovich have placed around The Big Three, but the fact remains that Mssrs. Parker, Duncan and Ginobili will have to do the heavy lifting.
And soon, starting next week. And lasting for nearly nine months. Catch your breath, old men.
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