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Bone spur in heel puts Spurs guard Parker on shelf

SEATTLE -- The Spurs' Big Three is down a man yet again.

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich has decided to sit
Tony Parker
indefinitely, against the point guard's wishes, because of a bone
spur in the star's left heel.

Parker did not appear in the Spurs' bench area during their
88-85 loss to Seattle on Tuesday night, San Antonio's season-high
third consecutive defeat.

An MRI exam on Wednesday showed Parker has chronic inflammation
in the heel but no structural damage. The team said there still
wasn't a timetable for his return.

The rest of the team was traveling on to Phoenix for a game
Thursday, part of a nine-game road trip to both coasts.

"He was told he was going to get better, but he's gotten
worse," Popovich said. "I don't know how long it's going to be,
but he's going to sit.

"He doesn't like it, but this is the way it's going to be."

Popovich made his decision about an hour before Tuesday night's
game, surprising Parker, who has been playing through pain for six
weeks, and Jacque Vaughn. Popovich informed Vaughn that he was
starting for the fifth time this season, just as the 11th-year
veteran was coming back into the locker room.

Vaughn stood in the doorway of the locker room with a stunned
look on his face and finally said, "Uh ... OK."

He then played a season-high 37 minutes and scored four points
on 2-for-8 shooting. Vaughn had four assists and two turnovers --
far from the 19.2 points and 6.1 assists per game Parker is
averaging this season.

The Spurs appear to be getting help at point guard. The agent for Damon Stoudamire, who received a buyout from the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, told ESPN.com's Marc Stein on Wednesay that the guard had decided to sign with the Spurs.

Stoudamire was expected to talk to Popovich by telephone on Tuesday, a source told ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan. The veteran was also planning to speak to Suns coach Mike D'Antoni. He had been expected to decide where he would play the rest of the season by Wednesday.

It's not clear if talks with Stoudamire had anything to do with the Spurs sitting Parker.

Popovich said Parker's long-term health is more important than
the Spurs' need to reverse their recent, middling ways while on a a
nine-game road trip to both coasts -- San Antonio's annual trek
while the city's rodeo and stock show takes over its home arena.
The defending NBA champions are just 11-13 since starting 17-3.

Their frustration after a second consecutive defeat Monday night
at Utah led All-Star Tim Duncan to say his team sorely needed to
win Tuesday against the woeful SuperSonics, who were buried under a
team-record 14-game losing streak.

Parker missed four games from Dec. 13-19 for what the Spurs said
were sprained left ankles. But it's the nagging bone spur that was
causing the ankle pain, and now his coach has decided only rest
will ultimately cure Parker and put the champs into preferred,
optimal condition entering the playoffs in April.

San Antonio is 1-4 without Parker starting. The Spurs were 7-6
from Dec. 5 through Jan. 4, when Parker and fellow stars Duncan and
Manu Ginobili appeared together for just 2 minutes of one game
because of injuries.

"You have to have health to win it," Popovich said of the NBA
title, which he has won four times in 11 seasons leading San
Antonio. "If you don't have all your horses come playoff time,
you'll be planning your vacation [early]."

Vaughn normally would be backed up at point guard now by Brent Barry, but Barry is expected to miss at least three more weeks with
a sprained right calf. Sharpshooter Ginobili will likely get the
backup point guard duties, as he did some in the preseason, while
Parker is out.

Ginobili scored 29 points Tuesday in his second game without the
protective device he'd been wearing this month over his sprained
left index finger.

"I think Manu's pretty healthy right now," Popovich said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.