Spurs point guard Tony Parker, listed as day-to-day with a Grade 1 strainof his left hamstring, said Sunday he will play in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night.
Parker spoke to the media after practicing for the first time since he was injured in the Spurs' series-clinching win over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 5 of the conference semifinals last Wednesday.
It's doing better, Parker said when asked about his hamstring. Hopefully, it will be even better tomorrow.
Parker said he still felt some tightness in the hamstring.
Asked if he plans to play in the series opener, Parker said, Yea.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich also replied with one word Yep when he was asked if Parker was good to go for the series opener.
Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, a rematch of a series between the Spurs and Thunder in the same round two years, tips off at 8 p.m. Monday at the AT&T Center.
Parker has set the pace for the Silver and Black in the playoffs, averaging 19.1 points and 4.9 assists.
While Parker is expected to play in the series opener, the Thunder have written off forward Serge Ibaka for the rest of the postseason after he sustained a calf injury in OKC's series-clinching win over the Los Angeles Clippers last Friday.
Parker turned 32 on Saturday
Parker expressed skepticism about whether Ibaka, who has led the NBA in blocked shots each of the last four seasons, will miss the series against the Spurs.
I don't really believe it, Parker said. I'll believe it when I see it tomorrow, that he's not on the court. It's hard to believe. I don't know. We'll see tomorrow.
Parker, who turned 32 on Saturday, averaged 23 points and 6.5 assists in the first four games against Portland, but went scoreless while playing 10 minutes in Game 5. He went the training room after playing only one minute in the second quarter and never returned to the floor.
The Spurs were off Thursday and Friday before returning to practice Saturday. Parker did not practice Saturday, doing some shooting and light exercising.
Parker said the break between series has been good not only for him, but the entire team.
We had some good practices and went through a lot of stuff that we can do better, he said. Each round, the competition is even better. OKC is a very good team. We've prepared pretty good, so hopefully we can do good the first game.
Parker was asked to describe what he felt when his hamstring tightened up early in Game 5.
I don't know, I don't know, he said. It just happens. Stuff happens sometimes. I don't really know what play (he was injured on).
Parker says Spurs will look to push pace against OKC
Parker shrugged off a question about how frustrating it is to have to play through an injury at this point in the playoffs.
No, Parker said. It's part of life, you know, part of basketball. Everybody goes through injuries. I'm used to it.
Parker said the Spurs' offensive success against the Thunder will lie in ball movement and execution.
We need to execute a lot better because against them, you can't go half speed. You have to go full speed. We have to perfect because they're younger than us and they're more athletic than us, so everything has to be more perfect.
We know if we have a lot of turnovers, we re not going to win. We know that every time we have a bad game we have a lot of turnovers, so we know we have to take care of the ball.
Parker said the Spurs will look to push the pace against the Thunder, who went 4-0 in the season series between the rivals.
That's our game, he said. We're still going to push the ball and have good pace. We just have to make sure we make good decisions, and make the first easy pass, not try to overdo or try to create something. Just try to play simple basketball.
OKC eliminated the Spurs in the 2012 conference finals, winning four straight after falling behind 2-0 in the series. The Thunder's 20-point win in Game 3 snapped a 20-game Spurs winning streak thatincluded a 10-0 run in the postseason.
The Spurs are in the conference finals for the third consecutive season, a first for a franchise that has won four NBA championships in its history.
Making it to the conference finals is very hard, especially in the West, Parker said. But here in San Antonio we want to win championships. Conference finals is great. I don't want to take it for granted, but we want to win the whole thing.
Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Western Conference finals
Game 1: Thunder at Spurs, Monday, 8 p.m.
Game 2: Thunder at Spurs, Wednesday, 8 p.m.
Game 3: Spurs at Thunder, Sunday, May 25,7:30 p.m.
Game 4: Spurs at Thunder, Tuesday, May 27,8p.m.
Game 5, if necessary: Thunder at Spurs, Thursday, May 29, 8 p.m.
Game 6, if necessary: Spurs at Thunder, Saturday, May 31, 7:30 p.m.
Game 7, if necessary: Thunder at Spurs, Monday, June 2, 8 p.m.