Tony Parker returns to Spurs’ starting lineup Tuesday vs. Pistons

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As much as the Spurs are a team that seems to not skip a beat when guys are out due to injury or old age, the fact is some guys are harder to replace than others. For example, the Spurs clearly miss Kawhi Leonard, who should be back with the team in the next couple weeks after his hand injury.

Another guy they need back? Tony Parker. He is the focal point of their offense but has been out since Christmas (and played just four games since Dec. 5) due to a nagging hamstring injury.

And he will be back and starting on Tuesday against Detroit, reports Mike Monroe of the Express-News.

“Tonight’s the night,” Parker said after the team’s Tuesday morning shootaround. “It’s been very frustrating….

“It never happened to me before, that long, but it happened and I’m happy that, hopefully, it’s behind me,” Parker said.

The Spurs were 6-7 in the 13 games Parker has missed because of this injury, although to be fair Leonard and others have missed time in that stretch, too. In the 21 games he has played Parker has scored 16.2 points on 51.5 percent shooting plus dished out 5.2 assists a game, although the numbers don’t do justice to how he controls the offense and the game.

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The Spurs haven’t looked like the unbeatable, unstoppable force they were in the Finals this season, but a part of that certainly has been injuries. They haven’t had their core guys together and healthy for a sustained period.

Nobody around the league is writing the Spurs off, however. Their defense has been good and they are fully capable of getting healthy, going on a run, and come the playoffs being a legitimate title contender. If you don’t think they can, well, you haven’t been paying attention the past few years.