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Tony Parker Wants Your All-Star Vote

By Jeff Koch on February 5, 2012.

Tony Parker is a very good player.

Most people probably still undervalue him, even Spurs fans. Nationally, he gets lost in the shuffle of a truly golden era for point guards. He doesn’t quite fit the mold of what we want a truly great Point Guard to be, so he’s never mentioned with the Roses, the Pauls, the Rondos, the Nashes, the Williams, or even the Westbrooks. And yet, every time he goes against one of them, he always seems to play a great game. Last night, it was quite clear that he had a giant chip on his shoulder, and he wanted to eviscerate Westbrook. And mostly did. That was probably the most complete game I’ve ever seen Parker play. There’s no need to even dissect or analyze it; if you saw it, you know it’s true.

In Spurs Nation, he’ll never be Tim Duncan or Manu Ginobili. Oh, yeah, and he married a hollywood actress and probably slept with a teammate’s wife. He doesn’t pass enough. He doesn’t score enough. He’s too friendly. He doesn’t have the fire of Ginobili. He’s French.

There are a variety of reasons we don’t love him like we love the other two. Some are understandable. He isn’t the super duper mega star that Duncan was, the rock upon which our 4 championships are built. He doesn’t inspire the imagination and the childlike joy in us like Ginobili does. But let’s set a few things straight: he is a fantastic player. And he does play with intensity and passion, even if his typical demeanor belies that point. He takes slights personally, and really relishes his battles with opposing PGs. And you know what? He almost never loses those battles. He doesn’t always decisively win them (like that night), but he’s never blown off the floor.

His assist numbers never seem to be high enough. Part of that is a function of the Spurs’ offense and his role in it. Think about what Parker does better than just about anybody: get into the paint, get to the rim. Once he’s there, several things can happen. The best of those things is that he scores. 2 points. Count ‘em. If scoring isn’t an option, his penetration has successfully broken down the defense, so now the offense is at an advantage somewhere. His job is to find that advantage, which he usually does, whether it leads to an assist or not. Sometimes he dumps it to a big man, which leads to a high conversion rate. But what usually happens, and what any frequent Spurs observer is accustomed to seeing, is the pass out to the corner. There is no doubt that this is the right play and the play the offense is designed to get. Once the ball is in that corner, one of two things can happen: that player shoots, or that player passes the ball to the next position. If the player shoots, there is only a 30-40% chance it is going in. Not good odds in getting the assist. If he passes it on to an even more wide open shooter, Parker is no longer eligible for the assist, even though his play is what allowed the wide open shot to occur.

All of that is a very long way of saying that raw assist numbers can be deceiving. To get the assist, the player you pass to has to make the shot. In last night’s game, Parker was one assist away from setting the franchise record. He made 3 perfect plays in a row that all led to missed shots. One from Duncan, two from Jefferson. He finally got the record on a pass to Duncan. Were those first 3 plays any worse than the one that finally got the record? No. Unfortunately, PGs don’t get any statistical credit for running the offense perfectly but the shot not going in.

Tony Parker is a good player, and deserves our respect and fan love. Congratulations to him on setting the franchise record for assists. He deserves it.

Wide Open West

The other big thing to take away from yesterday’s game is that the West is wide open this year…probably more so than any year in the last decade plus. The Thunder have the best record, and are probably the best team overall. But they are still young, still only mildly experienced in the playoffs, and still have weaknesses and faults that could prevent them from making the finals. I’d still favor them in any series, but get them in the right match-ups and have things break just the right way, and any of the top teams could conceivably beat them.

In fact, every team in the West seems to be flawed in some way. No team in the top 10 really seems all that frightening or unbeatable in a series. More than any other year, it will probably be about match-ups, health, and a little bit of luck. So just get into the post-season, and let’s see what happens.

The Rodeo Cometh Again

It’s the Rodeo Road Trip again. It seems like we’re just getting going in the season, but here it is again. The funny thing about the RRT this year is that, because of the condensed schedule, it is actually going to afford us some down time and some more days off. Most teams are playing 4-5 games a week. However, there’s no way the Spurs could go on a month-long road trip and play 4-5 games a week. That would be almost 20 games in a row on the road! So in order to keep it at the normal 9 games, we’re actually going to get some consecutive days off, something we haven’t had yet this year. Throw in the all-star break, and it’s going to seem like a holiday.

Of course, given our road record this year, it will still be nice to be able to win some of these games….

The trip starts Monday in Memphis.

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