Tony Parker has done the easy part in his injury rehab, getting his body and mind in proper shape for a return to the floor for the San Antonio Spurs.
Now comes the hard part: convincing coach Gregg Popovich he is OK to play.
Parker, who has missed the last six games due to both mental and physical fatigue, is hoping to return Sunday night when the Spurs host the Dallas Mavericks.
"I’m moving in the right direction. Feeling good, feel like the body is getting stronger. Had time to recharge the batteries and rejuvenate and convincing Pop to let me play (versus Dallas)," Parker said. "I’ve been practicing the last couple days. So we’ll see how my body responds, and hopefully I can convince him."
The Spurs (42-16) haven’t missed a step without their star point guard, going 5-1 thanks in large part to Tim Duncan, who continues to deliver when the team needs him most.
Duncan, shooting 51.0 percent this season when the Spurs are trailing, again came up big to help San Antonio rally from an early 14-point deficit for a 92-82 win over Charlotte on Friday. The veteran center led six Spurs in double figures with 17 points and also pulled down 16 rebounds.
San Antonio shot just 31.6 percent during a first quarter in which it was outscored 25-14. The Spurs improved greatly in the second, shooting 58.8 percent to erase most of the Bobcats’ lead. Duncan then scored 13 of his points after halftime as the Spurs pulled ahead to win for the ninth time in the last 12 games.
"It’s frustrating at times that we’re not able to come out of the gates and play the way we want to play night in and night out," Duncan said. "To play through the ups and downs and find a way to win a game like that is good for us."
The Mavericks (36-24) were on the opposite end of a comeback Friday, blowing a 16-point advantage in a 100-91 loss to Chicago. Dallas went cold down the stretch, scoring only 15 points in the fourth quarter – a major dip for a team that ranks in the top-third of the NBA with a 25.2 scoring average in the final period.
"We got nothing but good looks," said guard Monta Ellis, who scored 20 points but shot 2 for 6 in the fourth. "We missed a lot of layups, a lot of shots in the middle, at the free throw line. Missed a lot of wide-open ones. Just weren’t going down for us."
San Antonio hasn’t required any sort of rally against Dallas this season, outscoring the Mavs by an average of 8.0 points in the first quarter and never really being threatened in two meetings – both victories.
The Spurs have won seven straight overall versus Dallas and six in a row at home. The Mavs haven’t beaten San Antonio since a 106-99 home win on March 17, 2012, and their road losing streak in the series dates to January 2011.
When the teams met Jan. 8 in San Antonio, the Spurs shot 52.6 percent in a 112-90 victory. The difference in that one came at the free throw line, where the Spurs held a 23-5 edge in points. Dallas was 5 for 8 at the stripe – season lows for the team in both makes and attempts.
Parker has averaged 24.0 points in the two victories this season against Dallas.