Popovich: Parker will start in his season debut Monday night

That noise you'll hear a few minutes before the start of the Spurs' game against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night will be the thunderous ovation Tony Parker is sure to get when he's introduced with the team's starting lineup at the AT&T Center.

Parker, who hasn't played in a game since rupturing a tendon in his left quadriceps in the Western Conference semifinals on May 3, will start in his season debut, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said in his pregame session with reporters.

Parker was expected to be sidelined through at least the end of the year after sustaining the worst injury of his 16-year NBA career, all with the Spurs. 

Asked if he was amazed with how fast Parker made it back to the court, Popovich said, "Yeah, I stopped trying to be a doctor a long time ago. I never know. Guys come back sooner than you thought. Some guys take stay (out) longer than you thought.

"People make projections on different stuff, so I'm just glad he's back. We'll play him for a minute and a half (laughter). Make sure he doesn't get hurt again."

The Spurs (12-7) have managed to keep their heads above water without Parker and All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard, who also has been sidelined since the start of training camp with tendinopathy in his right quadriceps. 

Popovich said Monday that Leonard "is getting very close and making progress. He's having contact now. Hopefully, we'll get him back shortly."

While the Spurs have managed to keep winning without Parker and Aldridge, their offense has been largely inconsistent in their first 19 games. But Popovich likes the way his players have kept pounding the rock, as the Spurs like to say.

"It has been a lot of moving parts, but I've got to give our young guys and our new guys credit that they've blended in with the veteran guys that have been here pretty well," Popovich said. "We've had different guys step up on different nights, and score for us or make stops on defense."

Popovich cited forwards LaMarcus Aldridge and Kyle Anderson for their strong play since the start of the season. Kyle Anderson has started in Leonard's spot for all of the team's 19 games.

Aldridge leads the Spurs in scoring (21.6) and rebounding (8.2), and Anderson is averaging 9.1 points and 3.1 assists, and tied his career high with five steals in Saturday night's 106-86 road win over the Charlotte Hornets.

"LA and Kyle Anderson have been real stalwarts," Popovich said. "Those two guys have been steady, steady throughout this. LA's combination of scoring and playing D, running the floor, has been just outstanding. He's really been the key and guys like Kyle have been special on top of it.

"Everybody else has contributed. Different people each night. It's a good, solid group of people, and they've hung in there pretty good. So, hopefully, we can continue to do that until Tony's full speed and Kawhi's full speed." 

Asked if Parker's return will be easier because he won't have the pressure of having to carry much of the offensive load, Popovich said, "Tony is a good player, obviously. He's not 24. He's not going to come in and score 36, make it easy for us.

"What he does is give us more basketball corporate knowledge that we don't have right now. Some decision-making. Some depth, where other guys don't have to play as many minutes as they have been playing. All those things are a real plus for having Tony back."

Veteran Patty Mills has started the Spurs' last 12 games at point guard. 

Popovich hasn't given a timeline for Leonard's return, but said recently it would be "sooner rather than later."

© 2017 KENS-TV


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