SAN ANTONIO – Spurs point guard Tony Parker was upbeat at the team’s media day on Monday, saying he’s confident he can return from a quadricep injury he sustained in the playoffs last season as early as mid-November.
The Silver and Black, who reached the Western Conference finals last season, open their season against Minnesota on Oct. 16 at the AT&T Center.
“I think it’s a mix of everything,” Parker said, referring to his steady progress in rehab. “Between Dr. (David) Schmidt doing a great job in the surgery and my body reacting well to the surgery, and just eating well and taking care of my body and being disciplined.”
Parker talked about his long road back from the career-threatening injury Monday at the Spurs’ annual media day. The Silver and Black start training camp Tuesday at their practice facility, but Parker will continue his rehabilitation and work at his own pace.
“No practice with contact because they still want me to be careful and make sure that I’m strong enough to play NBA basketball, obviously,” he said.
Parker missed the remainder of the playoffs last spring after rupturing his left quadriceps tendon in the fourth quarter of Game 2 against Houston in the Western Conference semifinals. He had surgery two days after getting injured and began his long, arduous rehabilitation.
“By far, the toughest thing I ever had to do in my whole career,” Parker said. “I never spent that much time in the weight room. I think it was just great for me overall, for my body, after playing for 16 years (with the Spurs) and 16 summers on the road with the (French) national team.
“I think it was just great for me to get back and basically learn everything. Learn to walk again, and then jump, and running, all the baby steps that you have to do because I couldn’t move for three weeks after surgery. I was like paralyzed, so it was just a long time and sometimes very frustrating. You have to be patient and disciplined.”
Parker was initially expected to be sidelined until January or possibly even the All-Star break after he had surgery.
“Tony has come along a lot more quickly than one would have expected,” Popovich said. “I’m not shocked because he’s worked so hard at it. It’s good news. The sooner, the better.”
Parker, who turned 35 on May 17, was selected by San Antonio with the 28th pick in the first round of the 2001 NBA draft. Parker was only 19 when he reported to his first training camp with the team that fall. He became the Silver and Black’s starting point guard in the fifth game of his rookie season, and has held the job for 16 seasons.
A four-time NBA champion, Parker has been an All-Star six times. He was named MVP of the NBA Finals in 2007, when the Spurs swept LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers for their fourth title.
Parker recorded his lowest averages since his rookie season in scoring (10.1) and assists (4.5) in 2006-17. He played in 63 games and averaged 25.2 minutes. Parker raised his scoring average to 15.9 in the playoffs and dished out 3.1 assists per game.
“The small discussions that I had with Pop (Popovich) and the medical staff, is when I come back, I want to come back like when I was playing during the playoffs. Not come back, and you know, you come back and then you miss three games. Play one game, miss three games. I want to come back, and I’m back, you know?”
Parker said he thinks mid-November is a “realistic target" for his return.
Asked he was surprised by how fast he’s progressed in rehab, he said: “For sure, I was very surprised. When I first got injured, everybody was like, ‘Oh, it’s a big one. It can take you eight to 10 months. You’re not going to be back until the end of January.’
“Of course, I had worries. I didn’t know how my body was going to react. Some doctor told me that I would never be able to bend my knee like before. You take that into consideration and you take it as a challenge. You stay positive and work hard, and see what happens. I didn’t really have a target, to be honest. I was just working hard every day and see what happens.”
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