A little winded but none worse for wear Friday after playing full-court five-on-five with the Spurs’ G League team, Tony Parker was upbeat when he met with reporters at the franchise’s practice facility.
“Been feeling great, been feeling great,” Parker said, smiling. “Very happy. No setbacks. That’s good news because [it’s] my third practice five-on-five. I feel very confident.”
Parker hasn’t played in a game since May 3, when he ruptured a left quadriceps tendon while going up for a shot in the paint with 8:43 left in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against Houston.
He had surgery two days later and began a grueling rehab program shortly thereafter.
Parker said he still plans to rejoin the team in late November, although he acknowledged the decision on his availability will rest with coach Gregg Popovich.
“I could start playing right now, but I feel that my cardio is not there yet and I want to make sure my leg is strong enough to be able to hold on the whole season,” Parker said. "Late November, the beginning of December. Same thing.
"It's going to be tough anyway to convince Dr. Popovich.".
Parker has gone five-on-five the last three days with the Austin Toros, who are having their training camp at the Spurs’ practice facility. Parker said no restrictions have been placed on him.
“I’m going to do a full practice,” he said. “Right now it’s just about cardio and make sure that my leg is strong. Besides that, I’m very happy.”
Parker, 35, has been the Spurs’ starting point guard since early in his rookie season (2000-01). A six-time All-Star, he has won four NBA championships with San Antonio and was Finals MVP in 2007.
Asked how he would evaluate his game after three days of playing five-on-five, Parker smiled and said, “I’m just happy I’m surviving. My lungs are burning a lot but, you know, I’m running when like six months ago I couldn’t even walk, so that’s pretty good.
“When you have to re-learn everything and how to walk and how to run, and to be out there and playing five-on-five, it felt good.”
Parker said that he hasn’t thought about the injury when he’s on the court.
“My mindset, I’m like, if it breaks again, it breaks again,” he said. “You can’t control that, so I’m not really scared about that. I’m still going to the basket.”
Parker started playing two-on-two and three-on-three games about two weeks ago, he said.
While it’s been tough to miss the entire preseason and the early part of the regular season, Parker said that he realizes it could have been worse.
“I was a little bit lucky that most of it was in the summer, so it was no games,” he said, referring to the bulk of the rehab work. “Right now we’re winning, so that’s OK. I was very disciplined and very positive from the get-go, and make sure I come back.
“The Spurs have been great with me. They’ve given me everything that I needed, and so it’s been a great rehab.”
Parker said he is “very happy” for second-year pro Dejounte Murray, who has started the Spurs’ four games of the season. Murray had 15 points and 14 rebounds in Monday night’s 101-97 victory against the Toronto Raptors.
“He worked hard and he’s getting a good opportunity right now,” Parker said. “That can only help us down the road.”
Given Murray’s development, does Parker think Popovich will face a tough decision on whether to start Parker or bring him off the bench when he returns?
“That’s going to be Pop’s decision,” Parker said. “That’s not my decision. My job right now is to try to get back and play well, and try to help the team.”
Although Parker said he hasn't discussed his injury with new Spurs forward Rudy Gay, he has been encouraged by the way Gay has come back from a ruptured Achilles tendon. Gay played only 30 games with Sacramento last season before he sustained the injury. He opted out of the final year of his contract with the Kings and signed with San Antonio in the summer.
"We didn't really talk about it, but I know that he has the same attitude as me," Parker said. "Very positive and he's going to come back and be the same player. That was my whole mindset from the get-go. I want to come back and play the way that I was playing in the playoffs.
"It's a good sign. He's playing well. He had a good game against Miami (scored 22 points), so that's a good sign for me."
Parker spoke highly of Gay, who is in his 12th NBA season.
"He's a very smart player," he said. "He creates a lot of matchup problems. He's going to be a great fit for us."
Parker said his career-threatening injury has made him more introspective about life and the game he loves.
"You appreciate it a little bit more," Parker said. "You have a different perspective. Puts life in perspective. Sometimes you take stuff for granted and that's normal as human beings. It's easy to walk, but when you can't walk for a whole month, then it definitely makes you appreciate everything, like little stuff in life."