Breathe easy, San Antonio. It looks as if Tony Parker is going to be just fine.
Parker has a Grade 1 strain of his left hamstring, the least severe level of the injury and he is listed as day-to-day, the Spurs announced Thursday.
The team had the day off after eliminating the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals Wednesday night, but Parker came in to get an MRI exam of the injury that caused him to miss the entire second half of the clincher.
Just as the Spurs appeared to be finding their playoff legs and asserting themselves as the team to beat in the powerful Western Conference, Parker’s gave out. He felt his left hamstring tighten early in the second quarter, went to the locker room to get it examined and only played briefly before calling it a night.
The soon-to-be 32-year-old Parker missed 14 games with various injuries during the regular season, but the Spurs went 11-3 in those games and still managed to post the best record in the NBA. Still, the prospects of losing Parker — the inexhaustible throttle on the Spurs’ relentless engine — was enough to make a team hell bent on returning to the NBA Finals a little nervous after their 104-82 victory over Portland sent them back to the Western Conference finals.
“If we want to have a chance to make it to the Finals, we need him healthy,” guard Manu Ginobili said.
Parker suffered a Grade 2 strain of his right hamstring in Game 3 of the NBA Finals last season against the Miami Heat. He didn’t miss a game because of it, but the discomfort definitely limited effectiveness as the series wore on. He was 9 for 35 in the last two games, including 3 for 12 for 10 points in the Game 7 loss at Miami.
But Parker told the San Antonio Express-News that his latest injury wasn’t as serious as the one that bothered him last June.
“It’s OK; not too bad,” Parker told the newspaper. “Not as bad as the NBA Finals. NBA Finals was a Grade 2. This one is Grade 1. So should be fine for Monday.”
The Spurs will host Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Monday against Oklahoma City, which beat the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 6 on Thursday night to win the series.
The makes the Spurs’ five-game victory over the young Trail Blazers even more important. Parker will have at least four days off, and perhaps as many as six, to rest and rehab his hamstring.
Parker averaged 23.0 points on 52 percent shooting with 6.5 assists in the first four games against Portland before the injury. In the next round, the Spurs will be facing Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, so a limited Parker would have been devastating.
“Luckily we have a couple of days,” Spurs forward Tim Duncan said after the game. “It worries us, obviously. But he’s been going hard, he’s had a great series thus far, and it just kind of caught up with him.
“They pulled the plug on him before he hurt himself. He started to feel a little weird and they did the right thing. Hopefully that helps; hopefully there’s nothing there.”
AP freelance writer Raul Dominguez in San Antonio contributed to this report.