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Tony Parker to play in Game 1 of NBA Finals, but unsure about ankle's durability

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SAN ANTONIO – The first time Tony Parker dribbles full speed in Thursday's opener of the NBA Finals will be the first time he truly tests his sore left ankle since injuring it.

Parker did not play in the second half of the Spurs' series-clinching Western Conference finals overtime victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday because he re-aggravated a left ankle sprain. He said he will be ready for Game 1 of the Finals against the Miami Heat on Thursday night, but admitted he's a little concerned about the durability of his ankle through the duration of the series.

"A little bit because you never know how it's going to feel," Parker said. "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."

Parker hurt his ankle in the first round against the Dallas Mavericks and re-aggravated it during Game 4 of the West finals. He played through the injury in Game 5 against the Thunder, but said his body told him, "That's enough," in Game 6.

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Tony Parker participated in drills at half speed the day before the start of the NBA Finals. (AP)

Tony Parker participated in drills at half speed the day before the start of the NBA Finals. (AP)

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich felt the same way as he sat Parker in the second half of Game 6 in hopes of preserving him for a possible Game 7. The Spurs' clinching of the West crown in six games allowed Parker to get nearly five days rest before the start of the NBA Finals. Had the Spurs won the West in seven games, he would have only had three days between the start of the NBA Finals.

"I was proud of my teammates to get it done [in] OKC because those five days made the difference for me to be ready for Game 1," Parker said.

Popovich said the Spurs didn't do anything strenuous in practices prior to the Finals to test Parker's ankle. Parker did take part in full-court offensive drills at half-speed at the end of Wednesday's practice.

"I had a little stuff, wear and tear," Parker said. "But I'm still here and I trust my body to hold up for the whole series."

Said Popovich: "He's going to be fine."

Parker is averaging team-bests of 17.2 points and 4.9 assists while shooting 34.8 percent from 3-point range in 30.2 minutes in 18 playoff games. The Spurs turned to backup point guard Cory Joseph in the second half of Game 6 of the West finals when Parker was sidelined. San Antonio also used Patty Mills and gave Manu Ginobili some minutes at point guard.

Spurs general manager R.C. Buford hugged Joseph in the locker room after the Game 6 win in Oklahoma City and thanked him for being ready in Parker's absence. Parker said he is confident in Joseph and Mills.

Joseph "played great," Parker said. "He brings some physicality. He's a defender and he brings toughness. In this series we will need it. Pop is going to decide.

"But we got great options between Cory and Patty. Miami sometimes goes small so it gives us different options matchup wise."

Miami point guard Mario Chalmers said he hasn't paid much attention to the news on Parker's ankle because he knows Parker will play. Chalmers said his focus against Parker is to eliminate easy offensive looks, apply pressure with his own offense and make him work on both ends.

"I'm going to push him to see how he reacts to where his ankle is," Chalmers said.

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