In the Spurs' win over the Kings on Friday night, Parker sustained a grade 2 sprain to his left ankle, an injury that will cause him to miss around four weeks
The constantly injury-riddled San Antonio Spurs suffered yet another unfortunate blow to their core as a routine win over the hapless Sacramento Kings resulted in an ankle injury for star point Tony Parker. The ankle mishap, officially diagnosed as a grade 2 sprain, will cost Parker--according to super-coach Gregg Popovich--"a while", news that certainly isn't good for the team currently holding the best record in the NBA (47-14 after a win over the Pistons on Sunday).
For most teams, losing a key cog like Parker at this point in the season would spell a death-knell for playoff chances. However, the Spurs aren't like most teams, and are three games up on the 2nd-best Western Conference team (the Thunder) in addition to probably clinching a playoff spot in five or so games. Also, San Antonio is used to playing without its top players, going much of the 2012-13 campaign with fellow stars Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili on the bench due to injuries of their own.
With that said, even one of the NBA's elite teams is certain to feel the effects of losing its offensive facilitator for up to a month. In the month of February alone, with much of the month spent with Ginobili and Duncan injured, Parker averaged 26.1 points and 8.3 assists per game while shooting 54 percent from the field. He picked up the slack as the only member of San Antonio's Big Three to be in the lineup day in and day out.
"He's been a stalwart for us," Popovich said after finding out about Parker's ankle sprain. "He's having an All-Star season. As I've said, he's playing better than any other point guard in the the league consistently through the year. We will miss him."
The extra playing time that Parker would normally take will be shared by the Spurs' trio of backup point guards in Cory Joseph, Patty Mills, and Nando de Colo. Joseph has spent a bunch of time with the Austin Toros, the Spurs' D-League affiliate, and was even selected to the D-League All-Star team in February. Mills has the most experience of the three, and was Parker's main backup before the injury. The Australian Mills has already played 49 games this year for the Spurs, and has averaged 4.5 points and 10.2 minutes in those games. De Colo, who made a name for himself this summer as a member of the Argentinean national team--playing along with Ginobili, was signed this offseason by San Antonio as backcourt depth and has been decently effective in the 52 games he has played.
Granted, none of the guys I just talked about have anywhere close to as much explosiveness and pure talent as Parker does, but the Spurs don't necessarily need someone fitting that mold to serve as a short-term replacement for the Belgium-born point guard. With Popovich's system, a star at the 1 isn't necessary, just desired. Other players like Duncan (now healthy), Danny Green, Stephen Jackson, and Kawhi Leonard--just to name a few--can pick up the slack throughout March as Parker rehabs from his ankle sprain.
For most NBA teams, losing someone of Tony Parker's ilk for as long as a month is a unfortunate occurrence that could signal the end of a season's hopes. However, for the Spurs and coach Gregg Popovich, it's just a minor inconvenience.