All-Star point guard Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs will miss about a month after spraining his left ankle in a Friday, March 1, victory over the Sacramento Kings. Photo Credit: Mark Runyon, basketballschedule.net
Tony Parker, the San Antonio Spurs’ All-Star point guard, suffered a Grade 2 sprain of his left ankle during a 130-102 blowout victory over the Sacramento Kings on Friday, March 1, and is expected to miss about a month, according to ESPN.com.
The injury comes at a tough time for the Spurs, who were hoping that a month of mostly home cooking could help them extend their three-game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder for the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
While San Antonio plays much of the month at home, the competition isn’t necessarily easy. Eight playoff-bound teams will come to the AT&T Center in March, including the Chicago Bulls (Wednesday, March 6), the Thunder (March 11), the Golden State Warriors (March 20), the Utah Jazz (March 22), the Denver Nuggets (March 27) and the finishing kick to March, home games with the Los Angeles Clippers (March 29) and Miami Heat (March 31).
The Spurs only hit the road twice in March—a March 12 game at the Minnesota Timberwolves and a March 24 excursion to play the Houston Rockets.
So that’s the good news.
San Antonio has been a resilient bunch all season long. Tim Duncan has missed eight games with injuries this season. Kawhi Leonard missed 20, Manu Ginobili was out for 10 and Stephen Jackson missed 16 games due to injury and three more for personal reasons.
But missing Parker for a month is a different matter.
Parker is averaging 21 points and 7.6 assists a game for the Spurs this season in 56 games, shooting 53.3 percent from the floor and 37.9 percent from 3-point range in the process.
He averages 33 minutes a game, with a career-high player efficiency rating (PER) of 24.3, a 59.5 percent true shooting percentage and a team-high usage rate of 28.2 percent. Looking at win shares, Parker has meant 8.9 victories this season for the 46-14 Spurs.
San Antonio, however, has survived extended periods without their All-Star point guard before. The Spurs are 7-7 the last three years when Parker sits, but that record is a bit skewed by the fact than in eight of those 14 games, coach Gregg Popovich also shut down Duncan and Manu Ginobili in the same game.
When Parker is out and Duncan and Ginobili are still in uniform, San Antonio is 4-2 since 2010 and were 15-7 when Parker missed 22 games with a broken hand in 2009-10.
Ginobili immediately stepped into the play-making void created by Parker’s injury in the victory over Sacramento, dishing out a career-high 15 assists.
As for the guys who will be asked to stand in for Parker, rookie Nando De Colo will most likely get the starting nod. He’s started three games this season while fourth-year guard Patrick Mills has a couple of starts as well.
Second-year guard Cory Joseph was also recalled from the D-League on Thursday, Feb. 28, and may get some minutes, as well.
De Colo has averaged 3.3 points and 1.8 assists in 11.8 minutes a game over his 52 appearances this season. He shoots 42.5 percent from the floor and 35.8 percent from deep. Looking at his per-36-minute averages, De Colo is at 10.2 points, 5.5 assists and 5.2 rebounds.
Mills, meanwhile, averages 4.5 points and 0.8 assists in 10.2 minutes per game in 49 games in 2012-13. He is a 46.4 percent shooter who is hitting at a 38.8 percent clip from the land of 3. Per 36 minutes, Mills averages 15.9 points and 2.9 assists.
In his limited time, Joseph is averaging 2.5 points and 1.2 assists in 7.2 minutes per game spread over 11 games this year. He is shooting 50 percent from the floor and 28.6 percent from deep. Per 36 minutes, the numbers are 12.8 points, 5.9 assists and 5.5 rebounds.
One caveat of caution before getting too excited about any player’s per-36 numbers, however: It’s one thing to accumulate stats when a player knows he can go pedal-to-the-metal for a six- or eight-minute stretch, it’s quite another to have to pace oneself over a longer stint on the floor.
There’s never a good time for an injury to an All-Star performer, but if the San Antonio Spurs were going to have to survive a month without Tony Parker, it could be a lot worse than during a month in which they play 12 of 14 games in their own arena.