The Finals are upon with the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat set for a rematch one year in the making. In a season dominated by injury, both teams have survived the war of attrition to reach this point. While both squads weren’t completely immune to the injury bug, the pair of finalists each finished in the top 10 for fewest games missed to injury this season.
However after Tony Parker was unable to finish the Spurs’ closeout win over the Thunder due to a left ankle sprain, an aura of injury intrigue will hover around Game 1. Parker recently told a French radio station that he will be ready to play by Thursday but how effective he will be remains a bit of a mystery.
I’ve recorded 13 ankle sprains for Parker in his 13 seasons in the NBA. (That total doesn’t include two additional sprains sustained while playing with the French National Team) Including his most recent sprain, his left ankle has been sprained 11 times and cost him a total of 38 regular season games. Of these 11 sprains, three have been considered a moderate or Grade 2 sprain and resulted in Parker missing at least seven consecutive NBA games. His current sprain does not appear to be as significant but it is the second time this postseason he’s sprained the joint.
Fortunately for the Spurs, Parker has played well when coming back from an ankle sprain. Throughout his career, the productivity in Parker’s first five games remains on par with his career averages. The trend holds true when the collected data is expanded to his first 10 games back on the court. There also appears to be no noticeable difference when left and right ankle sprains are examined independently.
It should be noted that Parker has also been bothered by a left hamstring strain. Any weakness in the lower extremity could have a cascade effect on his ankle sprain further compromising the stability of the joint. However Parker dealt with a similar situation during the 2009-10 season when he suffered a left hip flexor strain shortly after spraining his left ankle. The combination of the injuries didn’t appear to bother Parker on the court as there was no obvious drop in performance in the five and 10 games after the injuries occurred.
Every injury acts differently but history suggests Parker should be his normal self to start the 2014 Finals. The Spurs will need their point guard at his finest if they are going to challenge the Heat and earn the revenge they’ve desperately sought for a year.