Originally Published: March 2, 2014

1. Tony Parker Gears Up, Puts Spurs In Drive

By Andrew McNeill | TrueHoop Network

SAN ANTONIO -- Gregg Popovich chuckled before the game at the notion of having to remember how to coach his full lineup. With Tony Parker back in action for the Spurs ahead of Sunday night's 112-106 win over the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio boasted its regular rotation for the first time since Tiago Splitter went down with a sprained shoulder on Jan. 4.

"I'll do my best," he said with a laugh before the game.

Parker/Calderon
D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty ImagesWith 23 games left in the season, Tony Parker returned with a strong start to the stretch drive.

Popovich didn't have to adjust too much, as Parker slotted into his usual starting point guard spot and showed little in the way of rust as he scored 22 points on 10-for-15 shooting against the Mavs and had seven assists, turning the ball over just once.

Outside of a handful of minutes in the All-Star Game, it was Parker's first action since he played 20 minutes in a Feb. 10 loss to the Pistons.

"He looked really fresh and didn't lose any rhythm it didn't look like," Popovich said afterward. "He played very well."

The Spurs started off the night testing out the Spur boasting the most recent clean bill of health. On the first play of the game, Parker drove through the lane to his right and got a layup. On the next trip down the floor he again got into the lane, this time he kicked out to Kawhi Leonard on the wing for a 3-pointer.

"I usually come back slow, limited minutes, can't make a shot, and he was sharp," Manu Ginobili said, with not a hint of jealousy in his tone.

After the first quarter, Parker had already cracked double digits in scoring and the Spurs looked closer to themselves, not the patchwork squad that somehow scraped together a 17-8 record in the time since Splitter went down with a shoulder sprain. Parker, Ginobili, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard have all missed time with various ailments since the injury to Splitter.

For the most part, Parker looked like himself. His jumper was falling and he moved well on the defensive end. The only box Parker didn't tick off of his checklist was showing the same burst in transition that typically strikes fear into opposing coaches and makes Parker the closest thing the league has to a one-man fast break.

On one play in the first half, Parker received an outlet pass in the middle of the floor with the Spurs boasting a 3-on-2 advantage on the break. Parker dribbled upcourt facing a backpedaling Dirk Nowitzki, but attacked the rim harmlessly with a spin move and missed a shot near the rim.

With Parker back in the lineup, the Spurs have 23 games left to get back their rhythm, fine-tune the rotation, and get ready for the playoffs.

"Hopefully everybody can stay healthy and we can try to make a run at it," Parker said. "Everybody recharged their batteries, everybody should be fresh.

"As long as we stay healthy and we play our best basketball when the playoffs come, that's the main thing."

Nothing is guaranteed, least of all health, but the Spurs have all their guys back at a convenient point in the season. There's enough time left to work out the kinks and take their lumps as the playoffs approach, with the end goal for Gregg Popovich & Co. to peak at the right time.

"You just play and try to be at your best come playoff time," Popovich said.

There is plenty of work to do before the postseason for San Antonio, which trails the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Western Conference's top seed by 1 1/2 games, but Popovich remembering how to coach them shouldn't be an issue.

Andrew McNeill's work appears regularly on 48 Minutes Of Hell, part of the TrueHoop network.

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