Game 6 and the legacy of Tony Parker

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After cutting his teeth in a loss to the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks last year, tonight, I fear, could very well be the occasion that vaults Kevin Durant into the iconic stage of his career.

Having taken a 3-2 series lead with an opportunity to close the deal at home, it would appear the NBA’s team of the future is ready to begin its legacy in the here and now.

Which is a frightening thought considering that at the age of 23, Durant is blessed with as much time as he is talent.

But if tonight’s narrative is to be about the ascension of Durant, it must come at the expense of another season-long story that has been put on pause and derailed since Game 2 of these Western Conference Finals. While Durant has at least another decade to determine his legacy, Tony Parker only has tonight — and possibly a Game 7 — to write his.

It seems ages ago that Parker was on the sidelines in the first round of the playoffs, pleading with head coach Gregg Popovich for a little more time in a blowout victory over the Utah Jazz. Back then, of course, Parker was famously only 29 years old.

A few weeks later, now at the ripe old age of 30, Parker has a more compelling case for carrying as many minutes as his legs will allow. He’s not getting any younger, and his opportunities to truly lead a championship-quality team aren’t getting any better.

After cutting his teeth behind Tim Duncan, and then Manu Ginobili, this was to be the season that vaulted Parker from capable third wheel into something, if not iconic, at least more.

Parker has always deserved his place amongst the game’s stars, even if only on its lower tiers. From time to time, however, his talents and success played at something better. Is Tony Parker an elite player? Fair or not, how history views that question is very dependent on what happens tonight.

This is, after all, the first NBA team that Parker has been a part of that can truly be said to be his. While Duncan and Ginobili remain championship cornerstones, they have aged beyond the point of owning a championship team.

It’s ironic that the fate of the San Antonio Spurs championship hopes rest in the hands of the same player who once declared them to be over, perhaps even somewhat telling.

But in positioning himself as the best player and leader of this Spurs team, and positioning that team as one of the best in the NBA, Parker propped that contention window open just enough to intrigue the basketball world with how far a Tony Parker-led team could go.

For a moment in time those possibilities seemed endless. Parker took ownership of the team, and in return displayed a mastery of his position that rivaled any in the NBA this season. When the first M-V-P chants broke this season from the AT&T Center, the moment was surprising only in how natural it felt.

Going back to Game 5, those chants tried to surface, but were undoubtedly forced. The Thunder, behind a blitzkrieg of Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka, with a wall of athletic defenders behind them, appear to have solved Tony Parker. And while there is little shame in being flummoxed by such a seemingly impossible task, there is little glory either.

There should be little doubt in the toughness or competitive resolve of Tony Parker. They were forged in the hell that is Gregg Popovich’s wrath, and any player who not only survives, but thrives under such circumstances deserves at least the benefit of the doubt on that.

The question lies in his abilities. Not on whether he’s good or not, because he is. Amazingly so. But on whether he is the sort of elite player one can pin their championship hopes on.

How far can a Tony Parker-led team go?

Tonight will be telling. Durant and Parker both have an opportunity to begin the iconic eras of their career. But only Durant has time on his side.

 

  • junierizzle

    Pretty accurate articel. I’m only looking at TP in this game. If he misses his first two shots and then stops shooting, its over.

    I thought the.Clippers did a good job of staying in front of him and cutting him off but he still got it done. He was hitting tougher shots then he is taking now. Granted Okc D is better than the Clippers D but He still has to try and get it done. I can accept a loss if TP is aggressive but I can’t if we get a passive,unsure TP

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  • Irontalon

    Agreed, we will know in the first few minutes how much fire Tony has. Let’s hope he comes out shooting flames like an enraged dragon.

  • STIJL

    It’ll take more than Parker having a great night.  But agree…if he doesn’t…Spurs had a nice season to get to this point though many will soon forget about 20 in a row, MVP mention and taking the Spurs serious as title contenders from this point on.

    Truthfully sad…youth is not on our side and killer instinct may be a fleeting thing of the past.  Let’s hope the whole “confident” team of just 4 games ago and of the regular season magically reappears.

  • Len

    It’s moments like these that can put Tony in the best PG in the NBA discussions.  As much as I hate to admit it, Rondo has seriously upped his game when it’s mattered most.  Tony, unfortunately, has not.  

    Spurs don’t win without a very good game from Tony.  Simple as that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Sauer/645387978 Christopher Sauer

    How about less Tony?  It’s clear after 3 games he’s unable to solve the riddle of the “Sefalosha-switch.”  Perhaps Pop should do a 180, and bench Tony in favor of a Manu, Jack, Kawhi, Diaw, Duncan line-up.  With Manu running it, I think it could work, no?  It’s certainly our best defensive lineup…  

  • Eric Titus

    Parker, Rondo, Paul (Westbrook? Williams?).  Those are the three best, and it’s clear that Parker belongs with them.  Those are the three that could lead a team to the Finals.  What Parker has got to show is that he’s the one of those three who can take over a game and will his team to victory.  Paul clearly couldn’t.  Rondo is great, but has too many holes in his game and seems to take plays off in some games.  But Parker needs to hit his shots in order to be great while Rondo doesn’t–that’s why Parker’s ceiling is so high but his risk is higher as well. 

    I’m hoping that Parker comes out with a great game–and by great I mean 20 points, 8 assists, controls the flow.  Anything less is a disappointment.

  • Irontalon

    May only be halftime, but Parker is certainly disproving that hypothesis

  • Jimbo

    I hate to post mid-game and jinx things, but man, Stephen Jackson came to play.

  • CaptainClark

    I’m crying so hard right now

  • Jimbo

    It sucks, man. Hats off to OKC, that is a great team.  It hurts a lot because this Spurs team was special in so many ways.  One of the “purest” teams I’ve ever seen in sports.

  • STIJL

    This was F’n BS.  Pop refused to let others play through their mistakes.   Great basketball mind.  Great 4 time winner of championship teams. Sorry ass person to not allow others to combat through difficulty.

    This game plan did not allow others on the team in moments of perseverance to contribute. (So much unlike the Dallas game in the early regular season).  But I guess and have personally experienced the sodomizing of role players at the detriment of losing just to allow your best players making poor decisions in the course of a game.

    It is all about your best players performing and winning.  Tonight…they fell short.  Congrats OKC…your best players beat ours.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrew.upshaw.9 Andrew Upshaw

    I think the Spurs were so great all year with their main plan of attack that they never developed any backup plans in case they were stopped. Tonight was a microcosm of the series, The Spurs were amazing in the first half but when the Thunder took away their easy looks they had no idea what to do. The Thunder on the other hand adjusted in this series from an iso-heavy team reliant on three guys to team who looked to get their role player involved. And thats what won them the series, as crazy as it sounds. Game 4 was the turning point without Serge ibaka and kendrick Perkins the Spurs probably win that game.
    http://4hoopsheads.com/2012/06/06/thunder-roll-into-finals/

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Craig-Thomas/1541940034 Craig Thomas

    I think the fans should sue Tony for once again failing to
    live up to expectations. Our supposed “MVP” took us on a roller
    coaster season that featured 42 point games, record breaking assists totals,
    and tremendous play. The problem? That is what has been expected of TP. Year
    after year, we believe “this is Tony’s breakout season. He will lead us to
    the promised land.” However, he once again wetted our appetites with
    tremendous play only to come up tragically short of the goal.

    After winning his Finals MVP in 2007, it became obvious to
    Spurs fans that Tony could be the future of the team. Sure Ginobili had the
    firepower to take over games with spectacular plays, but it was Tony’s
    quickness and agility that were nearly unmatched in the NBA which led people to
    believe he could be a building block. Of course there are PGs that have a
    better shot (CP3), that are quicker (Westbrook), that have better passing
    abilities (Rondo). But TP looked like he had the whole package. The way he got
    into the lane so effortlessly against the Cavs made people believe that TP
    could have it all and at such a young age could carry us past 4
    Championships.

    However, year after year, we never got a 5th banner.
    Somehow we would end up short. You can blame Pop’s coaching, Duncan’s knees, or
    even Ginobili’s body, but the Spurs could not win in June. Nevertheless, I
    think many Spurs fans would agree with me that Parker has been the link that
    breaks when the pressure is the highest. This season was a perfect example of
    him failing to live up to his own expectations. He showed his ability to
    completely dominate games whether it be through shooting or passing. We all
    believed in him until game 3 of the WCF when the wheels fell off the wagon.
    Sefolosha’s switch on to Tony completely derailed him. He could no longer get
    into the paint at will, he could no longer hit his jumper, he could no longer
    get his teammates involved. And just like that, our season was over. Parker’s
    inability to figure out a solution to Thabo cost us a shot at a
    championship.

    And don’t think that was just this year. Let’s take a look
    at the past few years shall we? 2011: Ginobili goes down with his most
    imperfectly timed injury ever casting a dark shadow over the post-season.
    Nevertheless, he fights on with a BROKEN ELBOW and fights probably the toughest
    defender in the NBA in Tony Allen. Duncan meanwhile hobbles into the playoffs
    on a healing ankle and sore knee. Duncan faces the two-headed monster of Marc
    Gasol and Zach Randolph defensively. The one bright spot on the roster is
    Parker who is healthy and has the best matchup of the entire team with Mike
    Conley Jr. What happens? TP flames out in horrendous fashion committing
    terrible turnovers and making Grevis Vasquez look like a serious starting PG.
    Ginobili carries the team, WITH A BROKEN ELBOW and we lose. 2010: Spurs put
    together a gritty win against the Mavericks with some clutch TP play. They go
    on to face the Phoenix Suns are Hall-of-Fame PG Steve Nash. While Nash easily
    wins the bball IQ battle against TP, Parker should easily win the athleticism
    and speed advantages against Nash. However, Parker appears almost non-existent
    in the series and ends up averaging his worst postseason averages since the ’05
    season. Nash outplays Parker despite a swollen shut eye. Four game sweep.

    What this is, is not a pattern of abject failure. It’s
    actually much worse. It’s roller coaster ride of highs and lows. TP may have
    some great moments here, and then shrivel into obscurity shortly afterwards.
    Game 6 of the WCF was a perfect example: Tony has an impeccable 1st half with
    21 point and 10 assists. Incredible numbers and play. Then in the 2nd half he
    score 2 point the in 3rd followed by another 2 points + 2 fastbreak layups that
    he could have taken at any point during the game. What caused this drastic
    difference within the confines of A SINGLE GAME??? Who knows? And at this
    point, who cares.

    It has become obvious that TP’s play cannot be counted on to get
    us to the 5th Championship because of how horribly uneven it is. You are not
    our MVP Tony, you are just another playboy point guard too busy hitting the
    clubs with your “boys” to reflect on the exceptionally disappointing
    season you just headed. I hope you win your frivolous lawsuit so we, the fans,
    can sue you for defrauded us of a great season and another Championship.

  • glen907

    I suggest you go back and take a look at that series again, it wasn’t tony who let the team down in fact if it wasn’t for TP the team would’ve never been in the position they was in the first place. Continue to blame tony while manu has subpar game after subpar game, go ahead continue to blame tony while TD is being played 1 on 1 the entire series but no longer wants to call for the ball. Yeah it makes sense to blame the guy that the opponents entire defense is geared up to stop yet shooters can’t hit open shots when their available. Just put it on tony because the coach in a close out game on the road plays only 7 guys despite depth being the strength of the team all year. Tony did his job he could have played smarter in some situations but ultimately he did his job, HE NEEDED HELP EVEN LEBRON AND KOBE AS GREAT OF PLAYERS AS THEY ARE NEED HELP TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP. Is it tony fault Duncan didn’t show up with his offense until the final game or manu outside game 1 and game 5 was pulling a disappearing act, I guess it’s tony fault green, neal, and bonner wasn’t hitting shots when it mattered the most or that splitter or blair couldn’t even make it off the bench to get in the game. I guess it was tony fault the coach lost confidence in all his young players or that he wasn’t smart enough to try a new strategy when the opposing coach made his mind up that he wasn’t going to let tony beat them. You point to the 2nd half of game 6 well i’m going to talk about the first half of game 5 when the leagues leading shot blocker and 2nd for DPOY got 2 fouls in the first 44 seconds yet the greatest power forward to ever play the game took all of 2 shots in the first and 2 in the second while being played 1 on 1 by OMG Nick Collison, this coming after a game in which he was dominated up front by the thunder in game 4. No need to keep rehashing the pain of that series but you guys who are blaming tony need to open your eyes, I wonder why russell westbrook didn’t go off on us the way he was against miami in the finals, ooh that’s right all that tough D being played by you know who.