The New Realities of Tony Parker
A win over the Lakers is a win over the Lakers. Blowing out the purple and gold, even without the services of Pau Gasol and a fourth quarter without Kobe Bryant (back spasms), should be enough to put a smile on any Spurs fan’s face. But the morning also comes with sobering news.
Last week in a piece exploring Parker’s role on the team I stated the Spurs troubles were not their point guard’s style of play, but rather his inability to play like himself. Last night Jeff McDonald from the Express-News confirmed my suspicions of an injury.
Tony Parker has plantar fasciitis.
Tony Parker, the Spurs’ All-NBA point guard, has seen his offensive production dip this season, from 22.0 points and 6.9 assists per game to 16.5 points and Â 5.8 assists.
Now we know why.
After scoring 20 second-half point to lead the Spurs to a 105-85 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night at the AT&T Center, Parker revealed he is suffering from plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
Asked why he has had occasional problems this season on drives to the basket, Parker volunteered the news about his injury.
“I’m a little bit slower, that’s why,” he said. “I don’t think it’s much different. It’s just my plantar fasciitis is killing me.”
The ailment should ring familiar for all Spurs fans. In 2005-06 Duncan’s post All-Star game averages dropped to 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game thanks to his troubles with plantar fasciitis, stirring fears that his best days were behind him. Fortunately for the Spurs, Duncan recovered in the playoffs and has since returned to playing MVP quality basketball.
Unfortunately for the Spurs, this is an entirely different case. We saw how debilitating plantar fasciitis was for Duncan at times, but at the end of the day he was still 7-feet tall. For a small guard that relies on speed and quick changes of direction, this can be a very damning injury.
The plantar fasciitis is in Parker’s left foot, which is especially troublesome as being a right-handed player, Parker both plants and jumps off his left foot. Any discomfort or restriction would explain why Parker has not been able to execute his patented spin moves, “Euro-step” or finish as consistently.
His limitations were on display at times during last night’s game as he repeatedly had trouble shaking Derek Fisher in the first half, despite the Lakers well-documented troubles with fleet-footed point guards. Eventually Parker was able to find his jumper in the third quarter and finished the game with 22 points on 10-18 shooting, but even this “revitalization” had a familiar feel to it–and not in a good way.
Two years ago in the playoffs, Manu Ginobili appeared to have one “breakout” game in the Spurs series vs. the Lakers. But watching then, I remember thinking how the victory was fool’s gold. Ginobili put up great numbers that night, but most of it came because he was hitting well-defended three-pointers. Last night Parker was able to find his jumper, which set up a few driving lanes, but even then he appeared hampered.
Unless a new miracle cure has been created since 2005-06, the only known treatment for plantar fasciitis is–as we learned then–rest. For now Parker insists on playing in games, wearing a specialized sock to relieve the pain.
But as Gregg Popovich and the rest of the organization already know, the Spurs will only go as far as their point guard can take them.
“We like when Tony shoots. Some games (this season) he hasn’t felt it for whatever reason,” Popovich said. “He needs to be aggressive. That’s important for us.”
That might necessitate shutting Parker down from time to time over the course of the second half of the season, placing more responsibility on the shoulders of George Hill, who as Graydon pointed out, had a nice game last night.