Just two days after filing a $20 million lawsuit against the owners of the New York City nightclub where he was hurt in an ugly June 14 brawl between the entourages of musicians Drake and Chris Brown, San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker revealed that the extent of the left-eye injury he sustained is much, much worse than he originally thought, could be serious enough to keep him from representing France in next month's 2012 London Olympics, and has the Spurs "very worried" about his future.
In his Paris press conference following his injury, Parker said he was at Manhattan nightclub W.i.P. with friends when a bottle-chucking melee broke out, reportedly over the two singers' respective relationships with fellow R&B star Rihanna. Like many other club-goers who suffered injury, Parker said he got caught in the crossfire, with shards of glass from a broken bottle entering his left eye and scratching his cornea. At that time, Parker said doctors had told him he couldn't "do anything for seven days," but that he was "lucky [because the] injury won't prevent me from competing the Olympics in any way."
When news broke Friday that Parker is suing W.i.P.'s owners for $20 million, however, I wondered if that huge price tag suggested Parker didn't walk away as unscathed as he'd previously represented. Now, according to a (possibly not 100 percent accurate) translation of a French interview posted Sunday on Parker's official website, we know that speculation was warranted — the Spurs point guard said subsequent tests revealed that a piece of glass "had penetrated 99 percent of [his] left eye," and that doctors told him he "almost lost his eye." As a result, his status for the upcoming 2012 London Olympics is now in doubt.
A translation of the interview follows the jump:
Tony, how's your eye a week after your return to France? It seems there are some complications ...
It's true, it's not going as I had imagined. When I gave my press conference last Friday after passing through the emergency department after getting off the plane, I did not think it would be so serious. I had additional tests on Friday afternoon and [they] found a piece of glass that had penetrated 99 percent of my left eye. I can say today, I almost lost my eye. So I had surgery on Sunday morning under general anesthesia. That's why I stayed in Paris instead of joining the team of France in Pau on June 20 as I had announced.
Withdrawal from the London Olympics — is it possible?
At the request of the Spurs, I return to the United States on July 5. I'm not allowed to travel on a long-haul aircraft before that date. I will see a specialist in New York with the hope of getting the consent to compete in the Olympics. The Spurs are very worried. Depending on the results [of that specialist's examination], a withdrawal is possible. The decision is no longer mine; it is in the hands of the doctor and San Antonio.
Does it feel like you're in a bad movie?
I can't believe it. I just spent eight days locked in my hotel. I was not allowed out, to prevent an infection. I was so afraid that I have not left my room. I have asked myself many questions. I cannot believe that happened to me a month before the Games, when it's been two years since I have had anything with the Spurs or the France team. [NOTE: Parker hasn't missed significant time since April 2010, when a broken hand kept him out of 16 San Antonio games.] Every couple of hours, I have to put five different products in my eye. In any case I thank the doctor who followed me for saving my eye.
What's the predominant feeling when you are told you need the operation?
Fear sets in. It is so fragile, an eye ... I couldn't believe it at the time. I could not believe it. But that's life; I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I have not had any luck, but in my misfortune, I'm doing fine. It could have been worse. The rest of my career is not in question. I just have to wait until the lesion resolves.
Will you still join the French team today?
I arrive tonight in Pau. Even though I'm not allowed to train, I want to be with the group. No pun intended, it is important in my eyes to spend time with the guys. It will take until July 5 to get the green light from the American doctor and get back on the floor. So in the best case, I'll drive to make my return to France on July 7. That means I will have to forfeit the first four [Olympic tune-up] games — June 27 at Pau against Italy, June 28 in Boulazac against Italy, June 29 in Toulouse against the Ivory Coast and July 7 in Orleans against England. So that will leave me just three weeks to prepare for the first game [of the Olympics] on July 29 against the United States. And to avoid any new problems, I will see on the floors with protective goggles.
This is potentially devastating news for the French national team; as my Yahoo! Sports colleague Maggie Hendricks noted earlier Monday at the Y! Olympics blog, Fourth-Place Medal, Parker is "a key part of the French team that qualified for the Games for the first time since it won silver in 2000," and without him running the point "France's medal chances are severely affected."
Looking beyond this summer, though, the extent of Parker's injury — once thought to be merely a scratch that would sideline him for a week — is obviously a very worrisome revelation for a San Antonio squad that is set to pay the point man $37.5 million to run the show for the next three years. That stretch could prove to be an especially pivotal one for the Spurs, who will likely soon have to face life without Hall of Famers Tim Duncan (36 years old, 1,301 NBA games and nearly 47,000 big-league minutes on his body) and Manu Ginobili (one month shy of age 35, bearing the wear of 17 years of professional ball).
If Parker's viability moving forward is at all compromised by this injury — and, especially, if it were to be compromised by returning to the court too soon, goggles or no goggles, national pride aside — then the one foundational piece on which general manager R.C. Buford and coach Gregg Popovich thought they could rely as the next rebuilding effort launches would be much more difficult to bank on. From that perpective, San Antonio wanting its medical staff and front office to be able to make the decision on Parker's participation in London makes all the sense in the world, even if the end result of their investment protection winds up severely hampering France's chances of medaling.
The next big date in Parker's attempt to get back on the floor, and the Spurs' efforts to protect their player, would seem to be July 5, when (if cleared to fly) he will return to the U.S. for that specialist check-in. Until then, basketball fans in Toulouse and Texas alike will be holding their breath and crossing their fingers.
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