The New Realities of Tony Parker

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parkerA 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  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.

  • la croissant

    How long does it take to recover from planar fasciitis ? Do you think Tony will make it to the postseason healthy (assuming no further mishaps and some rest)?

  • Randall

    Well, this is both encouraging and discouraging–the latter for obvious reasons. The encouraging end of the deal is that he isn’t losing a step talent-wise, feeling out of place in our system, or slowing down dramatically because of age. As long as this is something that can be overcome with rest, it’s a problem that could certainly be worse.

    It also shows just how right Pop and co. were in being upset about him playing this past summer.

    I do fear, however, that this will mean more PG time for Mason, someone who just doesn’t have the knack for creating and leading an offense. As we know, Pop loves this technique, even though it never really seems to pay off.

  • Spurlady

    If Pop does rest Tony, I don’t think there will be a dramatic increase in Mason handling the ball. It will be Manu. Last year with Manu hurt the Spurs had to go to Mason, this year Hill could start and Manu and to a lesser extent Mason would handle the ball on the second unit.

  • VP of Common Sense

    It will be interesting to see in the CBA negotiations if the owners push for the power to limit playing time for national teams because of the detrimental effect it is having on their investments.

  • David R.

    @VP of Common Sense

    I wonder, though, if the positive effects of international competition in the way of an increased fan base outweigh occasional injuries to some of the NBA’s stars. Seriously, what is the French NT without Tony?

    It does seem the Spurs are gettin a bum deal when it comes to international competition injuries though. Could a contract be written under this CBA that can be voided if an injury occurs in playing for a national team?

  • muwu

    Players will keep on wanting to play for their national teams no matter what, you’re not stopping them.

    Maybe the teams could instead, impose limits on their player’s minutes instead of banning them from playing with their national teams altogether. Could be a fair compromise.

    But really, when you’re a part of the Spurs, and you know you guys only have a few years left, be responsible and don’t risk playing heavily during the summer for your national team. International play has been what sunk the Spurs the last few years. The Spurs could have had maybe one more championship if not for all this summer play.

  • DieHardSpur

    Slow?!? Are you kidding me? Ask Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar how slow Tony was playing out there last night. PF of no PF, he is still the fastest guy int he league with the ball in his hands!

  • Tristan Wilkins

    What a relief!! I was wondering why he wasn’t in attack mode this yr. I hope they can get him healthy for the post season. Last night was a good win, even if they had some banged up player’s. It happens, but we need to be ready come playoff time. Still got more transition to work on.

  • jason

    @spurslady:

    I think your right on the money, if tony were to go down, manu would in essence be our backup pg behind george hill in addition to his regular duties occassionally playing the 2 or 3.

    Its not so unprecidented, its is basically what the magic did with hedo turkaglu the second half of last year and they rode it to the finals.

    I’ve been wishing the spurs would try this little wrinkle out, it does give teams who rely on a fast penetrating pg trouble because the spurs can still be fast but still out size a team when our pg is 6-7. And on defense it forces that team to choose between pulling their fast guard to cover on d with someone who is a better matchup, or accepting the miss match. Its all about controlling the style of play and throwing the opposition out of their comfort zone

  • junierizzle

    I knew he wasn’t right.

    I think he can still be effective. As long as he hits his jumper. He was still able to penetrate and he did outrun Farmar on that layup.

    I thought it was weird that he couldn’t get by Fisher. Who doesn’t get by Fisher?

  • dingo

    Watching the first half I couldn’t understand how Fisher was staying in front of Parker..now this makes sense. He’s still fast in the open court but in my eyes he can’t create as easily in the half court.

    As for playing for the national team..goes both ways, any restrictions to international players would have to be levied for US players as well (i.e. Lebron, Melo, Wade, etc.) . Of course all the star Spurs are international players.

    The Olympics should just go back to only letting amateurs play. That would make NBA owners happy I’m sure.

  • doggydogworld

    While we knew Tony was not penetrating and finishing as often as in past years, he still did it enough to keep everyone guessing. Did he have a problem or was he just adjusting to the new guys? Last night there was no hiding it. As Junie says, if you can’t get past Fisher you’ve obviously got a problem.

    Other teams are changing the way they defend the Spurs. They don’t double Tim very often and now they’ll play Tony tighter. It’s probably best to rest Tony and hope he’s full strength in May. It’s a tough call, though, because the team needs the Ws and sufficient court time for old and new players to gel.

  • SpurredOn

    It explains the lack of explosion. Seems TP may have to put even more focus on his jumper which is not the worst thing. Duncan overcame his PF in part by being fundamentally sound. Tony needs to do the same. It also tells me that end of game defensive possessions should have Hill, Bogans and Manu on the floor instead of Tony. It saves the wear and replaces a guy whose quickness and jumping is hampered.

    So, as the focus is on LA not having Gasol (they never had to apologize for winning when Manu was out) and Kobe playing hurt, turns out we had TP playing hurt and still don’t have our big man shooter, Bonner. And Blair barely played. 20 point win and room to be better. I’ll take that.

  • VP of Common Sense

    This is not just an issue with the Spurs. Look at the Lakers and the Gasol injury. And don’t forget the summer story of Cuban not letting Dirk play for Germany.

    As we’ve seen in the past, it is practically impossible to void NBA contracts as currently constructed under the CBA.

    The owners will have the upper hand in the new CBA negotiations, with the support of David Stern, and I wouldn’t be surprised if international play is discussed in concerned tones.

    Keep in mind, Peter Holt will be leading the team owners in the new negotiations.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Jesse Blanchard

    In terms of pure speed and quickness, Tony Parker is up at the top of the list but I’m not sure he’s the fastest with the ball in his hands. What separates Parker from other speedsters, like say, Leandro Barbosa, is his ability to change directions at full speed and change gears (Barbosa is always going full throttle).

    Any restrictions hamper his ability to do this and limits him to a straight line player. For example, we’ve seen this season that he can beat the defense down the court, but whereas Parker use to sidestep the lone defender in front of him he know has trouble gaining separation.

    Furthermore, without an ability to plant and push of his foot Parker will not be able to change gears as effectively. Dropping a gear or two to set up a defender becomes difficult as he has trouble getting back to top speed.

    Parker is still fast, but he’s not been overwhelmingly so this season. As much as I’ve supported his style of play, it depends on him doing it at levels we’re accustomed to. When he knocks a few jumpers down I think we’ll see nights like last night. But the difference between now and then could very well be that last year Parker was an effective player even when his jumper wasn’t falling. Will that continue to be the case?

  • Syd

    The Parker situation reinforces our need to have ideas for a possible third PG pickup before the trade deadline. As the season wears on, TP is going to be limited on many nights. That puts too much pressure on Hill, the only other PG on the roster (and a converted 2 at that).

    We don’t want to have to depend on a possibly gimpy Manu or the less-than-stellar-ballhandler Mason to shore up the PG duties in big games in March and April.

    Any ideas for a trade that could land us a credible backup? W don’t need a star, just a dependable veteran point who doesn’t mind lots of DNPs but can play 12-18 minutes if needed in a pinch.

    Maybe now’s a good time to dangle Mahinmi and his salary and potential upside for a veteran backup point.

    Thoughts? Names?

    What about Mahinmi for Jason Williams and a (2nd round) draft pick?

    Or Mahinmi and Finley for Earl Watson and a pick?

    Both pickups would only be for the season. I’d think that either Orlando or the go-nowhere Pacers would be willing to part with those guys for a player with Mahinmi’s upside.

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  • JT

    I wonder what took Tony so long to mention the problem. It could be because he knows that a lot of people weren’t happy with him playing for the international leagues… on the other hand… maybe he heard that the Spurs were trying to trade him for CP3 and decided to mention it so other teams don’t want him and in sense – prevent a trade.

    just food for thought…

    Last night’s game was great, but I can see that we still lack consistency for 48 minutes, even without Kobe and Gasol, the Lakers still cut it to 6 when the Spurs fell asleep and kept shooting pullups. Im glad we won though, if we played with the same desperation, we would have a much better record, now we must play well to catch up since the Lakers may head into somewhat of a mini slump right now..

    GO SPURS GO!!!

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  • Jeff

    Spurs tried to trade him for Chris Paul. What a joke. Maybe if TP learned how to shoot 3′s like CP or pass well.

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