The Return of Tony Parker

San Antonio's favorite Frenchman, Tony Parker, is back from the quad injury that ended his season during last year's Western Conference semifinals. Since returning to the starting lineup against their in-state rivals, the Dallas Mavericks, on November 27th, just how well has San Antonio been?

"Tony Parker is 8 of 12. Rebound by Anderson inside." "Now Tony Parker is down." "Ohh Parker is down on the other end." - Kevin Harlan & Reggie Miller

Watching Kawhi Leonard hobble off the court last postseason wasn't the 1st heartbreak #SpursNation had felt during that playoff run. Eleven days earlier, the Spurs had to watch as future Hall of Fame point guard, Tony Parker, laid on the ground in pain grasping at his left leg. The official statement on his injury, which we would find out the following day, was a ruptured left quadriceps tendon.

Parker went down during the 4th quarter of game 2 of the Western Conference Semis against their rival Houston Rockets. Up 14 with 8:52 left to go in the game Parker drove the lane and put up a teardrop, just as he's been doing his entire career, but came down awkwardly and immediately collapsed. Minutes later he was being carried off the court by teammates Dewayne Dedmon and Dejounte Murray as the San Antonio crowd chanted his name. As I watched from home the only thought going through my head was whether or not this would be the last time we saw Tony Parker in a Spurs jersey. I'm sure I wasn't the only one thinking that. A 16yr career that consisted of 6 All-Star appearances, 1 Finals MVP Award and 4 NBA Titles ending all because of an awkward landing on a bread and butter play. 

Losing a Step

It's no secret that the 2016-2017 regular season was a rough one for Parker. As a 34yr old PG, who has 1,143 regular season games plus an additional 221 postseason games under his belt, it was only a matter of time before father time caught up with him. Let us not forget the 72 international games he has played in as well. For the fourth season in a row, Parker was looking at a dip in his PPG. His 10.1ppg were the lowest they had been since he scored 9.2ppg back during his ROOKIE season. Now, this drop in scoring could mostly be attributed to the Spurs offense transitioning to be more focused on Kawhi Leonard being the 1st option scorer. During that four-season stretch which saw Parkers PPG drop from 20.3ppg to 10.1ppg, Kawhi Leonard's PPG numbers blew up from 11.9ppg to 25.5ppg. The area of concern during the regular season was his efficiency. Those 10.1ppg were coming off of a 51% true shooting percentage. Parker had not shot below 54% since the 03-04 regular season, his 3rd season in the league. He also only managed to have a win share total of 3.0, the lowest of his entire career. His backup PG Patty Mills had a win share total of 5.0. The Tony Parker of old who Spurs fans had grown accustomed to seeing whiz past defenders as he drove into the paint for easy buckets was starting to seem like only a distant memory. While we would see flashes of the old Tony Parker every now and then when he'd hit a defender with his vintage spin move into a layup, they were just reminders of what used to be. 

Turning back the clock

Heading into the postseason, the Spurs knew that their road to a 6th title went straight through Golden State. They would need to bring their play up to an entirely new level. Apparently, Tony Parker somehow met with Bugs Bunny prior to their opening series with the Memphis Grizzlies to get a drink of "Michael's Secret Stuff". (I really hope you understood that reference.) Parker looked like the Parker of old ever Spurs fan was used to seeing during their opening series. His TS% jumped from 51% to 62% while averaging 16ppg. For the entire series, he trailed only Kawhi Leonard in points and assists. The first 2 games of the Houston series went pretty similar as well. The Spurs were looking like contenders then the injury happened. 

The return

208 days after rupturing a tendon in his left quadriceps, Parker made his regular season debut against the Dallas Mavericks. Coach Popovich made it real clear that Parker would be on a minutes restriction the first couple games, and would unlikely see anything over 20mpg going forward. This is a smart move by Pop, seeing that Tony won't truly be needed until playoffs come around. As we all saw last season, he definitely knows how to flip a switch. Will it be any different this year? Since returning Parker has played, and started, in 6 of the Spurs 8 games. The Spurs are 6-0 in those games, and 7-1 overall, including a thrilling win over the top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics. While only scoring 8.7ppg, Parker is shooting the ball much more effectively than last season. His TS% is back up to 56% in the few games he's been back, and he currently has a PER of 20! While the days of his All-Star level of play are far behind him, watching Tony Parker playing this well after having to be carried off the court 6 short months ago is something I'm sure all Spurs fan can appreciate. Who knows how many more games Tony Parker has before we are raising his jersey to the rafters right next to Timmy. 

For now, I'm sure I speak for all Spurs fans when I say it's great to have our favorite Frenchman back on the court. Sorry, Joffrey Lauvergne.

But wait, there's more

There was no way I was going to put out a Spurs article without mentioning Manu Ginobili's heroics against the Boston Celtics this past Friday night. At 40yrs old, Manu continues to amaze the entire NBA fanbase with his ability to show up in a game's most crucial moments. It's something Spurs fans have seen time and time again. Not only did he hit an unbelievable fall away, buzzer-beating 3 pointer to end the 1st half, he went on to hit the go-ahead 3 with only 5 seconds left to put the Spurs up 105-102. After the game, Coach Pop told the media how Ginobili simply told him "This is what I do." many years ago. Gotta love that "Grandpa Juice". Go ahead and enjoy that dagger 3 one more time below. 

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