SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Tony Parker plans to play in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
The San Antonio Spurs open their rematch with the Miami Heat on Thursday, and their star point guard is nursing a balky left ankle.
“He’s getting better every day, and I expect him to play,” coach Gregg Popovich said Tuesday.
Parker aggravated the injury Saturday, missing the second half of San Antonio’s series-clinching victory over Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals.
Parker didn’t practice Tuesday, but said he expects to be back Wednesday.
Parker is averaging a team-leading 17.2 points and 4.9 assists this postseason but has been bothered by injuries the past two rounds.
“I always try to be honest with Pop,” Parker said. “He knows, but if I’m 50 percent I’ll try to play. If I’m under 50 percent, we can argue.”
Parker conceded the ankle has bothered him since San Antonio’s second-round series against Portland, although he did not divulge it at the time.
“I don’t like to talk about when I’m hurt,” he said. “I played on it for the whole series against Portland. That’s why I think my hamstring got hurt because I was playing on a bad ankle.”
Parker had tightness in his left hamstring midway through the second quarter of Game 5 against the Trail Blazers, forcing him to miss the rest of the Spurs’ series-clinching victory.
He did not miss any of the Western Conference finals because of his hamstring. But he aggravated the ankle injury in Game 4 against Oklahoma City.
“I twisted it again, but didn’t say anything,” Parker said. “Played on it, and then Game 6 I think my body is like, ‘That’s enough.’ It’s perfect timing to get five days and to get better and to be ready for Game 1.”
San Antonio was still able to clinch the series without Parker, holding off Oklahoma City for a 112-107 overtime victory to advance to its sixth finals appearance.
Parker said he wanted to return for the second half, but was overruled by Popovich and the team’s medical staff.
“I wanted to play. I wanted to play,” Parker said. “Pop was like, ‘No, we never know for Game 7.’ So I understand where he was coming from, but it was hard to watch from the locker room. At the same time, I was very proud of my teammates. They stepped up big. It was huge for us because I think those five days (off) are big for us to prepare for the finals.”
Asked whether he would possibly hold Parker out if he was less than 50 percent, Popovich smirked and alluded to the calf injury that was supposed to keep the Thunder’s Serge Ibaka out of the Western Conference finals — but didn’t.
“It’s too early — he’s either 50 percent or out for the rest of the playoffs,” Popovich said. “One of the two . I had to do it. I’ll never do it again, I promise. We’re done with that joke.”