Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
> Can the Spurs win without Tony Parker playing at his peak, health-wise?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Yes, because this gets into semantics: No one is at his peak, health-wise, by June of the NBA season and postseason. Everyone is some percentage of his ideal self, so Parker just needs to be the best he can be. Now, relatively speaking, that means he can’t be gimpy to the point of rushing or forcing things against Miami’s pressure. He was a particular thorn in the Heat’s side in last year’s Finals and their defensive game plan would be aided considerably by Parker limping on that right leg. But with Game 2 scheduled for Sunday, the Spurs point guard will have to gut out only one game in a span of eight days before facing the prospect of a series-debilitating injury. My hunch is he’ll be up to the task.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Did the Blog Master fall asleep on the sofa during the second half of Game 6 in the WCF when the Spurs took down the Thunder without Tony Parker at all? He actually suffered the ankle injury in Game 4, so the Spurs won the two clinching games with their best player at less than peak health. You’re making me sound like Gregg Popovich here. Of course, a 100 percent Parker driving into the paint and scoring or dishing is optimal and makes things better for SA. But at this time of the year, almost nobody is 100 percent fit. I believe he’ll be close enough. In addition, Patty Mills has been a solid backup and Manu Ginobili is quite capable as the point, as he was in OKC on Sunday. Ginobili is often the one with the ball in his hands to make plays late under normal circumstances.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Chances would be very slim the Spurs could slip by the Heat without a peak-performing Tony Parker. You saw them survive one half in Game 6 without him, but even as deep as San Antonio is and as well as their role players blend into the system, that’s asking too much. Parker’s penetrations are the heart-and-soul of the offense. Lose that and you lose the series.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Yes. But not if Parker is far from peak. A status report like that is impossible to quantify, but the star point guard can still get the job done at 80 or 85 percent, all the way to being able to press the trophy over his head while standing on the podium. Parker at, say, 50 or 60 percent, struggling to move well, becomes the kind of issue that can tip a series. The bench play of Patty Mills has been big in 2013-14, but the Spurs are heading into what should be a very tight series and need Parker in a good place.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: They need him to be able to turn the corner on pick-and-rolls, get into the paint, and draw the attention of an extra defender or two. That’s how their offense works. It helps that Manu Ginobili — their secondary ball-handler — is playing a lot better than he was a year ago. But two guys who can penetrate and create problems for the defense are a lot better than one.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Yes, they can. But it will be the most difficult task any Spurs championship team would ever have to overcome to snag a Larry O’Brien trophy. They won Game 6 of the Western Conference finals with Parker playing limited minutes before halftime and not playing at all after halftime. So I wouldn’t count them out if they have to play the Heat without Parker at full strength. The Spurs are deep enough, talented enough and experienced enough to win this series but it cannot be done without Parker playing at somewhere in the 80 percent (yes, I used the dreaded percentage) range.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Well, they beat OKC without him. Then again, that was only for a half (plus an OT). And without a 100-percent dose of Parker for an entire series, I’m not sure they can beat Miami. The Heat always struggle against elite point guards, and Parker puts pressure on Miami’s Chalmers/Norris combo to perform, or at least to perform well enough offensively to make Parker work. Also, if Parker isn’t healthy, Miami won’t have to use LeBron James against him defensively, freeing up James to guard whoever happens to get hot for the Spurs. I think San Antonio can win a game or two without Parker being 100 percent, but if they want to win the series, they need every bit of what Parker brings.
Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: No, they can’t. The Spurs need Parker at his best to have a chance to beat the Heat. He’s the director of a perfect orchestra: They can live without him for half a game like they did with the Thunder, even for a whole game. But for a series? Against the two times defending champing? Nope, not even a chance. Pop should keep him locked up in a safe place until it’s game time.
Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA Greece: They won in OKC without Parker in the second quarter and overtime, didn’t they? Even if they are a team that is built in such a fashion around the Big Three, the Spurs have found the way to be efficient even if one of them is not in top form. On the other hand in a long series it will be a big blow for San Antonio not to have Parker, who, after all was their best player in the last year’s series. The Spurs with their team play have gained our trust, that they can pull this off. Especially if they gain from a post-oriented game (Duncan) and wear down LeBron (Green-Leonard).
Rubens Borges, NBA Brasil: It will surely make their job harder but not impossible. Parker’s ankle should limit him some but, unless he is hurting as much as he was during Game 6 versus the Oklahoma City Thunder, he should be alright. If he can’t go (and may the basketball gods PLEASE not allow injuries to keep anyone out) San Antonio will lose their best weapon. Having Tony break down defenses is essential to beating Miami. In short, they might win with a hobbled Parker, but if injuries limit him too much, no.