SAN ANTONIO — Spurs coach Gregg Popovich succinctly summed up the severity of what the team called a left leg injury that point guard Tony Parker suffered Wednesday in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals.
“It’s not good,” Popovich said, acknowledging that he knows little at this point about the injury.
That seemed to be the vibe emanating from all corners of the Spurs’ locker room on the heels of a 121-96 victory over the Houston Rockets, but San Antonio now turns its attention toward putting together a contingency plan to complete this series. The Spurs announced that Parker will undergo an MRI examination on Thursday, and once those results are disclosed, the team will update his status.
Veteran Spurs shooting guard Manu Ginobili saw Parker in the locker room after Wednesday’s game and described the point guard as being “in pain” and unable “to put weight on his leg,” while adding “he was struggling to walk.” That postgame scene apparently provided Ginobili plenty of pessimism about Parker quickly returning to the lineup.
“It’s hard to see him limping and hurting now, and you kind of know we’re not going to see him any time soon,” Ginobili said. “That’s a tough blow. We shall see. We don’t know.”
Parker suffered the injury with 8:43 left in the fourth quarter on a driving floater over Patrick Beverley with the Spurs leading the Rockets 97-83. Parker immediately clutched at his left knee after the shot and collapsed to the court, where he lay motionless for several minutes.
“That was tough,” Dedmon said.
Perhaps even more difficult is finding a way to replace Parker for what is likely to be the rest of this series against the Rockets.
Earlier in the contest, Parker became the ninth player in NBA postseason history to reach 4,000 career points. Parker and LeBron James are now the league’s only players to have scored 4,000 points and dished 1,000 assists in the postseason.
Luckily for the Spurs, they gained plenty of experience during the regular season in playing games without Parker in the mix.
Parker, 34, missed 16 games during the regular season due to rest and various ailments, such as right knee soreness, a left quadriceps bruise, a left knee bruise, left foot pain and back stiffness. Curiously, the Spurs ran off a record of 12-4 in the games Parker sat out.
The most likely candidate to receive first crack at replacing Parker in the lineup is veteran Patty Mills, who averaged 9.5 points per game and 3.5 assists during the regular season and contributed seven points on Wednesday against the Rockets. If Mills moves to the starting lineup, it is likely Ginobili will serve as the primary backup.
The Spurs also have shown a tendency to run the point through Kawhi Leonard on occasion. Leonard scored 34 points on 13-of-16 shooting against the Rockets on Wednesday, in addition to contributing eight assists, three steals and a blocked shot.
Leonard said he could “definitely” see himself in a point-forward role with Parker out.
“We’ll see what happens, though,” Leonard added. “We have a great coaching staff led by Popovich, and we’ll see.”
Ginobili said that if you’ve paid attention to the Spurs, you’ve already seen San Antonio move toward a style of play that features Leonard more. In fact, he compared Leonard’s current role to the dynamic in Houston of James Harden playing alongside Beverley.
“The fact we play a different style now, with Kawhi holding the ball a lot and running the high pick-and-roll and creating for others means we don’t need, as much in the past, a point guard that creates for everybody,” Ginobili said. “In that sense, we are going to have to find rotations, maybe without a point guard for moments. I don’t know, we haven’t talked about it. Patty’s going to have to play more minutes for sure, but Kawhi, for sure, is going to have the ball more in his hands.
“Besides the fact that Tony is our point guard, we are going to miss having him around, his experience, his big shots. It is more than just who is going to start. We are going to miss his presence.”
Mills seconded Ginobili’s impressions of Parker.
“He has that presence, just like TD had that presence,” Mills said, referring to Tim Duncan. “And he was rolling the last month, going back to his old self. He has that presence on the floor, especially when he’s on the break. When the ball is in his hands, he makes big-time plays, big-time shots, big-time moves. So we’ll see what the deal is.”
But it’s too early to say what that is, which is why Popovich declined to even broach the topic without a definitive diagnosis on Parker.
“I have no idea,” Popovich said. “We just finished the game. We’ll find out about Tony. We haven’t gotten together to talk about who’s going to play instead. I have no idea.”
Tony Parker leaves Spurs’ win in fourth quarter with injured leg – ESPN