Spurs’ Parker expects an NBA season

By Jeff McDonald

Fresh off a star turn for France at last month’s EuroBasket tournament, Spurs point guard Tony Parker spent Saturday afternoon in a rented gym in Alamo Heights, conducting what he hopes will be the first of many eponymous basketball clinics to come.

Some 1,800 miles away at roughly the same time, inside a luxury hotel in midtown Manhattan, NBA owners and players were locked in a collective bargaining meeting that will in large part determine Parker’s next move.

Training camp in South Texas? Or the south of France?

Should the news coming out of New York be bad, and the lockout prolonged, Parker says he’s prepared to open the season playing for ASVEL, the French professional team he co-owns.

“If the sense is we’re going to start in two weeks, I’m not going to go over there,” Parker said. “If they tell me we’re not going to start until January then, yeah, I might go play.”

Parker plans to make a decision next week after the NBA labor situation becomes clearer. Spurs teammate Manu Ginobili, who is weighing an offer in Italy, is believed to be on a similar timetable.

Had the NBA labor dispute not postponed the start of camps indefinitely, the Spurs would have held media day this afternoon, with practices set to begin Monday.

Like other players, the 29-year-old Parker has his eyes on the Big Apple for what has been cast as a make-or-break weekend of bargaining sessions. Ignoring the gloom and doom that has hallmarked negotiations so far, Parker said he expects to be on an NBA court at some point in 2011-12.

“Everybody’s hopeful,” Parker said. “I think we’ll have a season.”

Asked if he thought the impasse would be solved in time to stage a full 82-game season, which would likely mean having the framework of a deal in place by the middle of next week, Parker sounded less sure.

“I hope so,” Parker said. “I don’t think we’ll cancel the season.”

It was a long and strange summer for the Spurs’ three-time All-Star in a lot of ways, and not all of them bad.

Last month, he led the French national team to a runner-up finish at Eurobasket in Lithuania, securing a berth in the 2012 London Olympics for Les Bleus — the country’s first since 2000.

It was a heady moment not lost on Parker, whose basketball résumé includes three NBA championships, one Finals MVP, three All-Star appearances and an All-NBA Third Team selection but, until now, no Olympic berth.

“I’ve been chasing that for like 10 years,” Parker said. “It was my last thing.”

His success in Lithuania has Parker itching to get back on the court with the Spurs, especially with the sour taste of the team’s first-round playoff ouster to Memphis still lingering.

How soon that can happen remains up to David Stern and Billy Hunter.

If doomsday occurs, and the entire season is scuttled, it would be quite a blow to a Spurs team that still relies heavily on aging stars Tim Duncan (35) and Ginobili (34).

Duncan is entering the final season of his contract, and there has been speculation a fully erased 2011-12 campaign might also mean the end of the 13-time All-Star’s career.

Parker, who says he’s talked to Duncan recently and plans to work out with him Monday, isn’t buying that.

“I see myself playing at least two or three more seasons with Timmy,” Parker said.

Whether Parker opens his next season here or abroad remains to be seen.

Should Parker opt to play in France, it might actually cost him money. As ASVEL’s co-owner, he would have to pay to insure his own NBA contract.

“I would do it,” Parker said. “I think it will be good for French basketball, especially after what we did this summer. Everybody’s so excited about basketball right now.”

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