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In Praise of Tony Parker

By Jeff Koch on December 18, 2010.

D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images

Memphis 106, San Antonio 112  //  23-3  //  1st in the West

Tony Parker gets overlooked a lot in the Spurs world. Tim Duncan is the rock upon which we’ve built four championships, and the most important player in franchise history. Manu Ginobili is our savior sent from another dimension to excite us and help us win games, and probably our most popular player ever. And Coach Popovich is widely heralded a basketball genius, sets the tone for the entire organization, and might secretly be the funniest and kindest man working in the NBA. So where does that leave Tony? A while ago I wrote that Pop was our brain, Duncan our soul, and Ginobili our heart. What does that make Tony? Surely there is room for Parker in this over-extended metaphor?

For some reason, fans have never warmed to Parker quite like they have Duncan and Ginobili. (I’m as guilty of this as anyone. I own two jerseys: Duncan and Ginobili.) He’s always a little too something for our liking: too Hollywood, too selfish, too removed. He can never quite win in our eyes. Sure, we love him, because he’s our PG, but people in San Antonio aren’t naming their babies Tony or Parker (though I did convince my friend to name her dog Parker). Whenever trade rumors swirl around the Spurs, Parker’s name is always the first one out there.

But Parker has done more than enough to earn our love and devotion, and he’s more than proven his loyalty to the franchise. For years there were whispers that Parker was gone to Los Angeles as soon as his contract was up, even as he persisted that he wanted to remain in San Antonio for a long time. Finally, given the opportunity to sign an extension, he did without a moment’s hesitation.

On the court, when healthy, he’s consistently delivered. For years he’s been criticized for being a score-first Point Guard, though few fail to see that our offense is designed around Parker being a scorer first, a passer second. And the way he can score, why wouldn’t he? Yet this season, his scoring AND his assists are up. When Tony is playing aggressive and attacking, he’s one of the most unguardable players in the league, scoring layup after layup on helpless defenders. While Ginobili saves his best for last, Parker saves his best for the beginning, often rattling off double-digit scoring numbers in the first quarter alone to go along with 4 or 5 assists. As Ginobili astutely pointed out after Denver’s game, if not for Parker (and Duncan), we would have never been in that game. Ginobili may take us to the promised land, but Parker is the one leading us.

This season is Parker’s finest. Given the keys to the offense, he is running it with a maestro’s touch, pushing our raw and advanced scoring numbers to heights unseen on any Popovich-coached team. There has been a lot of talk about our new fast-breaking offense, but most of that is Tony Parker alone! Any time you see a wide open 3 drained by Bonner or Hill or Neal, you have Tony Parker to thank. Whenever he is aggressive, we’re winning; and it’s usually not even close.

The Memphis Grizzlies would not die tonight. We kept making little runs, they kept countering. In the 4th quarter, they finally overtook us, putting us in the middle of a dogfight. Who did we turn to? Tony Parker, who sparked us and refused to let the game slip away from us. We finally put them away in overtime, thanks in large part to Parker’s excellent floor game. He may not have hit the big game winning shot, or gotten the big block that led to a fast-break dunk for Jefferson, but he was our best player, hands down, with37 points (on 15-21 shooting) and 9 assists to only 2 TOs.

So if Pop is the brain, and Duncan the soul, and Ginobili the heart, perhaps, befitting a Frenchman, Parker is our spirit, or, esprit.

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