After rupturing his left quadriceps tendon in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals back in May, Tony Parker told a French newspaper that he intended to “play my best basketball when I return in January.” Evidently, part of that plan is getting a head start.
The six-time All-Star and four-time NBA champion announced Sunday on his Facebook page that he will return to the San Antonio Spurs for Monday night’s matchup with the Dallas Mavericks at AT&T Center.
“I’m really excited to play again,” Parker wrote in his return announcement. “It has been some tough months with a lot of recovery, patience and mental strength. I wanted to thank everyone who believed in my return. Fans, Family, Friends, my Recovery Team and the San Antonio Spurs, I couldn’t have done this without your support.”
Parker’s return will come one month after the Spurs aimed to kickstart his rehabilitation by sending the 16-year NBA veteran down to the G League for a stint with their affiliate in Austin. After a one-week stay in the developmental league, the Spurs brought Parker back to San Antonio to continue his work in 2-on-2, 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 settings, with an eye on getting the point guard back on the court before the turn of the calendar.
Even that represented a tough wait for Parker, who said at the start of training camp that he’d progressed to the point that he wanted to be back in November. But with the Spurs already weathering the perplexing ongoing absence of superstar forward Kawhi Leonard, the veteran lead guard understood that discretion was the better part of valor for a Spurs team that always takes the big-picture view.
“It will take some time because when I come back, I want to come back like I was playing in the playoffs,” said Parker, who had averaged 16.3 points in 27.1 minutes per game in San Antonio’s six-game opening-round victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, and who had scored 18 points with four assists in Game 2 of the second-round matchup with Houston before going down in the fourth quarter of the Spurs’ win.
It’s impressive that the 35-year-old beat both the initial January estimate and Popovich’s December revision. It’s a little worrisome, though, that Parker also beat Leonard, the two-way franchise cornerstone who has yet to play this season as he battles right quadriceps tendinopathy.
The Spurs have gotten by in his absence, opening the season 12-7 to sit third in the Western Conference behind strong play from LaMarcus Aldridge, an elite defense that ranks fourth in the NBA in points allowed per possession and timely contributions from a mix of veterans and young players. Getting Parker back to provide a steady hand on the ball ought to help a San Antonio attack that hangs just above the bottom third of the league in offensive efficiency, but the Spurs’ chances of mounting a true challenge to the likes of the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets atop the Western Conference will depend on having their best player healthy, ready and available.
Parker offered some news on that front ahead of Monday’s meeting with the Mavs, according to Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News:
“He’s close, but it’s still going to be a process,” Parker said of Leonard, who has been sidelined since just before the start of preseason with right quadriceps tendinopathy. “You know the Spurs, they are going to take no risks. It’s going to be…a couple of weeks, three weeks, they are not going to take any risks, but he is looking good so far.” […]
Parker said the workouts he had with Leonard included some of the “old, old guys” like Spurs great Tim Duncan and retired Spurs sharpshooter Matt Bonner.
Whether you put more stock in the “looking good so far” part of that update or the “looking good alongside ‘old, old guys” part will probably depend on your general disposition. Either way, while we continue to await further word on Leonard’s estimated time of arrival, Spurs fans will at least be able to welcome a franchise legend back into the fold to give Patty Mills, Dejounte Murray and the rest of the team’s ball-handlers a bit of a breather as San Antonio looks to get in rhythm as the season rolls on.
– – – – – – –
More from Yahoo Sports:
• Vietnam vet gives gift to protesting Seahawks star
• NHL team in hot water over ‘insensitive’ naked video
• NFL Winners and Losers: Time to bench Alex Smith
• Dan Wetzel: The irresponsible attack on Greg Schiano by angry fans