Looking Forward to More Rings?
Last weekend, it was announced that Tony Parker and the Spurs agreed to a four year, $50 million contract extension. There was a major sigh of relief from the greater San Antonio area.
To some fans, it may have just been a blurb at the bottom of their TV screens across the country. But to Spurs fans, it means a whole lot more than that. It even raises some questions.
What does this mean for George Hill's long-term viability in the Alamo City?
Does this mean the window is propped open for possible championships for the Spurs?
Will the rumors of Parker's possible move to New York finally stop?
Will Spurs coach Gregg Popovich unleash the potential of a very potent uptempo game, utilizing star Tim Duncan in a role akin to Kareem Abdul Jabbar for the Lakers in the late 1980s?
Hopefully we can address some of these issues and maybe more, as we look at the possible effects of this major deal.
As always, read, review, respond and enjoy.
With the adjusted rules regarding defense, the Spurs will unleash a more potent and decidedly uptempo offense with Parker primarily running the point.
With his ability to hit runners, floaters, jumpers and contorted layups that would make a magician smile, Parker is ready to be the central cog in the Spurs' offensive machine.
Recent additions like Richard Jefferson, DaJuan Blair, James Anderson and George Hill, no doubt, are more inclined to get out and go on fast breaks galore. Even relative graybeards like Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Antonio McDyess are more than able to fill lanes and play trailers in a faster paced game.
Parker will most assuredly see an increase in both points and assists as Coach Pop will take his foot off the proverbial brakes of the offense.
A backcourt of Parker and Hill would be about the most athletic backcourt in the NBA, at worst, top three. How many guards would be able to stay in front of both of these players? Maybe four or five? No doubt, the league's crackdown on hand-checking would allow for a more dynamic pace to the games at the AT&T Center for years to come.
The pace would not be at the level of the Warriors, Knicks or Suns, but more towards the middle of the NBA rankings. This would put the Spurs light years ahead of where they usually are. This is a latent weapon that can be stressed more, knowing Parker will be present until 2015.
Conversely, the offense may be even more frequently jumpstarted by a more pressure based defense.
Pop stresses proper rotations and fundamental defensive tactics, but with about two-thirds of the main rotations under the age of 30, the Spurs can look to extend pressure in situations other then when strategically set.
This new wrinkle will call for Parker to utilize his supreme quickness on the defensive end of the floor. This is a nice benefit ready to be unleashed around the new year. It will be an option that other teams will have to consider and take into account.
Can you imagine how tough the Spurs' defense can be if Parker and Hill (or Manu) are pressuring the wings, Splitter is denying the big man and Blair or Duncan is guarding along the back line?
More pressure on defense can lead to very easy transition offense.
I think we should get very comfortable with the idea of the Spurs extending their defense and amping up the pressure.
He's Captain of the Ship
The question has become more annoying with each passing season.
Who's team is (fill in the blank star)'s or (fill in the blank star)'s?
Are the Lakers Kobe's team or Shaq's team?
Are the Celtics Antoine Walker's team or Paul Pierce's team?
Are the Heat Dwayne Wade's team or What's His Name's team? (Sorry, I couldn't resist taking the shot, LBJ)
Well, for the next four years no one will ask that question in San Antonio. Just as the Spurs were once George Gervin's team, David Robinson's team and Tim Duncan's team, they will be Tony Parker's team.
In other words, he will be the "face of the franchise," another term du-jour I can't stand. He will provide the swag for the Spurs, yet another term that makes me feel a little ill. He will be the guy that recruits other players to San Antonio to shoot the big shots, to make the big passes, grab the big rebounds... ah, you get the point.
Parker is in an ideal position. He has been in S.A. through the playoff battles, championships, et. al., but he is young enough and has an aesthetically pleasing style to attract other players. San Antonio does not get high-profile free agents, but with a more uptempo style in place, he can get certain types of players to follow him there.
Then more championships can follow.
When becoming the central player on a team, one's leadership and composure comes under fire.
The tough questions? Those will be yours to both ask and answer, Mr. Parker.
The big decisions? Those will also be yours, Mr. Parker.
The hard calls? Those also will be yours too, Mr. Parker.
This isn't to say that Parker hasn't been groomed for this. Pop has been molding him to be the team leader for almost a decade now. The point guard position is one that demands a player be both heady and assertive. He has to know how to cajole and encourage, as well bark at and call out his fellow players. He often has to do this with or without the coach's agreement.
Parker has gone from an extremely young player being ridden hard by Pop, to winning as a deferential youngster to veterans like the Admiral and Duncan, to becoming a viable option himself to a culminating point of winning the MVP of the 2007 NBA Finals.
His career development now calls for him to be a point guard that truly runs the team, like Isiah Thomas in Detroit, Magic Johnson in Los Angeles or Jason Kidd in New Jersey. Those gentlemen steered the ship to the top of the basketball world, the NBA Finals. It's up to Parker to do the same as the leader of the Spurs.
I am not a big fan of legacy, as in, "So and So's legacy is defined by..." That's another sports cliche I do not fancy very much.
However, at the risk of sounding inconsistent, Parker's legacy will be defined in terms of how the San Antonio Spurs go forward over the length of his contract extension.
The reputation of the franchise over the last 20 years has been one of high level basketball, All-Star players and championship contention.
During this time, the legacies of players like David Robinson, Sean Elliott, Avery Johnson and Tim Duncan were forged as great leaders, players and champions.
Parker has already established his name among the best players and champions thus far in his career. Yet he has not yet established himself as a team leader. Every sports fan sees the Spurs as Tim Duncan's team and rightfully so.
Duncan will most likely not play the entire duration of Parker's contract. When Duncan calls it a career in San Antonio (and I can't see him joining someone else's team to chase a ring, right LBJ?), the keys will fully be in Tony Parker's hands to drive the club as he sees fit.
That's where his legacy as a leader will be made and it should be rather interesting.
The Passing of the Torch?
Tony Parker is not an average NBA player.
He did not come up in the AAU system, or even high school and college ball that the majority of the league is familiar with.
He's had to deal with language and cultural barriers, coming over from France to the U.S. as a teenager.
His time in San Antonio has seen personal ups and downs, although the team was mostly successful.
He was hounded by Coach Popovich more times than the law should allow.
He was rumored to be moved off the ball as Jason Kidd was to become a free agent after winning the NBA Finals in 2003.
He's been criticized when the Spurs lose, even if he may have felt that certain losses were not directly his fault.
But through it all, the Spurs have won and developed a reputation as the best run franchise in the NBA, drama free and consistent in sticking to their team objectives and standards (you know, the good guys finish first thing) and providing high quality basketball.
I'm interested in seeing what adjustments are made in the transition from Duncan to Parker as team leader, but I get the feeling that the destiny of the Silver and Black is in good hands.
What do you think?