Tony Parker scored 32 points in a terrific all-round display as France edged out Spain 75-72 in overtime on Friday night to book their place in the European Basketball Championship Final on Sunday against Lithuania. Parker has been a key figure for France throughout the tournament and is passionate about playing for his country. However, there may be some San Antonio fans who, understandably, feel a little concerned that the team’s star player is competing in a long tournament shortly after a long playoff run and with another long NBA season now barely one month away. Is the Parker led French run actually bad news for the San Antonio Spurs organization in a slightly twisted way?
There’s no hiding from the fact that this Spurs team with head coach Gregg Popovich and future Hall-of-Fame players Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili is running out of time to win a fifth championship for the organization. Last year’s agonizing seven game loss to the Miami Heat might be reflected upon as by far their best chance. That series included a heart-breaking 103-100 Game 6 overtime loss in Miami, which the Spurs will surely think of a game that they should have won. A veteran and battle tested roster somehow surrendered a 94-89 lead in regulation time with just 28 seconds left on the clock.
Repeating runs to the NBA Finals are not an easy business. The physical fatigue of playing an extra two months of high intensity basketball combined with the mental challenge of having to start all over from Game 1 in October is not an easy task. Of course that is something that the Spurs are very used to, but even Popovich, Duncan and co will have to admit that the devastating nature of the 2013 Finals loss was something a little bit different.
This core’s chances of winning another title might just come down to the next two seasons if they haven’t already gone. It is perhaps a concern then (though obviously not for San Antonio’s management) that the team’s top player and one of the top point guards in the game, Parker, is averaging nearly 30 minutes of basketball per game while competing in this summer’s EuroBasket. That might be especially concerning considering the fact that Parker has even admitted to feeling fatigued only a couple of months removed from his team’s long playoff run.
Specifically for Parker there might be extra concerns that last season he was dogged by ankle injuries that kept him out of action and appeared to reduce his impact at points during the year. That wear and tear isn’t likely to be reduced by a shorter break from competitive basketball. There’s no question that the 31-year old is crucial to the success of this line-up with his playmaking and scoring ability.
Intuitively a long European basketball tournament doesn’t feel like the ideal offseason preparation for Parker. However, it’s worth noting that representing France is something that Parker has publicly said he loves to do. It seems that a situation where the Spurs allow Parker to play basketball when he wants to is healthier than the situation with Mark Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas.
It’s also worth noting that Popovich will manage Parker’s minutes, along with the rest of the team’s veterans, carefully during the regular season. He won’t hesitate to give Parker additional rest if he thinks it is necessary.
Spurs’ fans can also take comfort from the fact that they have a pretty deep roster. Kawhi Leonard is developing as a strong all-round player who could emerge as a more seriously recognized player around the NBA this season. Danny Green showed that he can score with the best of them, while Tiago Splitter should continue develop and Marco Belinelli looks like a strong depth addition.
San Antonio are likely to be overshadowed in preseason discussion with Oklahoma City, the Clippers and Houston probably taking the headlines. Still, Parker’s participation in EuroBasket isn’t likely to be a determining factor as to whether they can break into that conversation or not.