Dismissing concerns about the Zika virus that has been shown to cause birth defects when contracted by pregnant women, Tony Parker on Thursday re-asserted his commitment to play for the French National Team in the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, the epicenter of the Zika outbreak.
Chicago Bulls center Pau Gasol, a key player for the Spanish team that won the silver medal at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, recently announced he is considering freezing a sperm sample as a precautionary measure if he opts to compete for Spain in Rio De Janeiro in the Olympic tournament in August.
Parker has no such concern, in large part because his wife, Axelle, is due to deliver the couple’s second child in late July.
“I’m not really concerned about Zika,” Parker said. “That’s more for pregnant women. That’s why my wife will definitely not go, that’s for sure. She’s not going. The kids are not going. She’s going to deliver the end of July and I have to report Aug. 3 to Brazil, so no way. I will go solo.”
The all-time leading scorer for “Les Bleus,” Parker has long planned to conclude his international career at the Rio Olympic tournament.
“It’s my last one, that’s for sure,” Parker said on Thursday after a visit to the Spurs’ summer basketball camp for kids, where he ran the campers through some games and signed autographs. “Sometimes I want to stay home because of the kids and my wife being pregnant, but my wife and I had a great conversation. We understand it’s the last one, so let’s do it. Let’s finish strong, try to get a medal and finish on a great note.”
After the disappointing loss to the Thunder in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, Parker is anxious to learn if his “Big Three” teammates, 40-year-old Tim Duncan and 38-year-old Manu Ginobili, will return to the Spurs for the 2016-17 season. Both have one year remaining on contract extensions they signed last summer. Both contracts have player option clauses that allow them to become free agents or retire. Ginobili’s decision must be made by June 22; Duncan’s by June 30.
Duncan, Parker and Ginobili have played an NBA-record 778 games together and won an all-time best 575 regular season games, but Parker has not yet heard a word from either of his Big Three mates about their intentions.
“No, but I know it’s coming by the end of the month,” he said. “We’ll know if both of them are coming back. We’ll see. To be honest, I have no idea (what they will do.)
“Whatever happens, happens,” he continued. “We had such a great run, maybe the best run ever for a Big Three. So we’ll see what happens.”
Parker said the disappointment from the Spurs’ early playoff ouster lingers, but he popped some champagne in France on Tuesday to celebrate a championship victory by the team in the French professional league in which he has an ownership interest.
Watching his team defeat Strasbourg in Game 5 of the best-of-five championship series was more stressful than playing in a Game 7.
“You know how hard it is to win a championship, but it’s different,” he said. “As a player you have control because you have the ball, but as an owner it’s different. The game is very, very long.”
The first congratulatory call Parker got after his team won the French title came from Gregg Popovich.
“I was like, ‘Pop, what are you doing up?’” Parker said. “It just shows how global basketball has become and all my (Spurs) scouts and coaches texted me and said congrats.”
Top image: Spurs star Tony Parker answers questions on Thursday about his decision to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Photo by Mike Monroe.