Posted: 12:23 p.m. Friday, March 22, 2013
By Matthew Tynan
Kawhi Leonard broke the news, Spurs folks confirmed it. Tony Parker will be active and available this evening against the Utah Jazz.
The Spurs (52-16) have gone 6-2 during Parker's absence and managed to extend their lead in the Western Conference to three games in the loss column. But it's been a struggle without their leading scorer, especially of late as attrition has set in to a certain extent. His return also comes at a great time with an impending stretch of games that will be among the most difficult of the season.
Tonight's game against Utah and Sunday's game in Houston will serve as a sort of warm-up for the three-game home stretch that includes the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers and Miami Heat. There was no indication on how many minutes Parker will play this evening, but if Gregg Popovich says he ready to go it shouldn't be an unreal expectation to see him in the starting lineup.
In Parker's absence, Leonard's game has been elevated as more opportunities find him on the offensive end. After all, someone had to help make up for the point guard's numbers.
"(It comes within) the flow of the offense — just take what the offense gives me. I just tried to be a little more aggressive while he was out," he said. "We were missing 20 points in the lineup, so we had to make that up."
With Parker back in the fold, the normal chain of command will take its course over the next several games. And as Leonard said, things will become more simplified from here.
"It just makes the game easier for us," he said. "He penetrates and finds us open shots on the floor, scores the ball and gets after it on defense as well."
Despite the three-game lead the Spurs currently hold over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the loss column, finishing with the top overall seed in the West will be a tall order. San Antonio has 14 games remaining with only three against sub-.500 teams. The Thunder, on the other hand, could potentially face up to nine sub-.500 teams, including all four of their next opponents. Not to mention, the Spurs face the Thunder in Oklahoma City on April 4 in their fourth game in five nights.
Translation: There isn't a better time for Parker's return to the court than right now.