Parker ready to bring it

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:44 AM ET

Forget Mother Parker. Anthony Parker, where have you been?

The Raptors' starting shooting guard has missed the past five games with a sprained right ankle. However, the first year Raptor practised with the team yesterday at the Air Canada Centre and is expected to return to the lineup for tomorrow afternoon's game against the visiting Seattle SuperSonics.

Though his stats are respectable, averaging 11.6 points and 2.0 assists per game, it's his defence that has been a huge lift for the Raptors this season, and his absence was felt in a big way.

Parker often is assigned to guard the opposition's top offensive player. He also is one of the better three-point shooters on the squad.

Without Parker in the lineup last week, Gilbert Arenas and the Washington Wizards scored 129 on the Raptors, while LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers added 120.

Tomorrow, against the SuperSonics, Parker no doubt will be asked to keep star Ray Allen under control. But Parker, who is excited to be back, isn't buying into his own hype.

"That's not the first time I've heard (that he is invaluable to the team) and obviously it's good to be missed," he said. "But the reality is, we played Cleveland away and we played Washington away, two tough teams in the East, and I don't know if my presence on the floor would have produced a different result."

Still, Parker admitted that he does get up for games when he is assigned to guard a James or an Arenas, and does take great pride in keeping them from exploding on the scoreboard.

"It's something I've come to embrace, it's my role on the team, and it's an important one," he said. "(But) if you would have told me that two years ago, that I'd be the one that would have those assignments, I wouldn't have believed you."

With Maccabi Tel Aviv the past four seasons, he averaged 16.3 points per game and was considered one of the best, if not the best, all-round players outside of the NBA. His contributions to the Raptors this season have some people suggesting that Parker deserves most improved player consideration.

Parker believes that Toronto's minor slump (2-3) while he was away probably has as much to do with team fatigue than his absence, and he certainly gained a new perspective by sitting on the bench.

"For one reason or the other, I don't know why, on the defensive end, we were missing a lot of energy, a lot of intensity, and a little urgency and I think that's something hopefully I can bring," Parker said. "I don't know if that I'll be able to do everything that I was able to do as far movement and that sort of thing. But as far as communication and energy and trying to get everybody on the same page ... that's something I've been trying to get everybody to be more focused on."

Toronto holds a 41/2 game-lead in the Atlantic Division with 20 games remaining, and sits fourth in the Eastern Conference.


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