San Antonio fans embrace Tony Parker as an MVP
Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker stood on the floor together in the fourth quarter, their full complement of skills on display for what felt like the first time in forever.
Health has been a rare luxury between the Spurs Big Three this season. Even rarer have been the times when all three are firing on all cylinders. So with Duncan holding court against Dwight Howard, Ginobili knifing through the lane with just enough lift for a dunk, and Parker a blur in the open court, it brought back familiar feelings, albeit with a new twist.
While Duncan and Ginobili have been readily embraced by all in San Antonio, Tony Parker’s reception has ranged from contempt for not falling into a traditional point guard role at worst, and an understanding that he is merely a third wheel at best.
But in the midst of 16-point fourth quarter scoring blitz for Parker, something new happened in the AT&T Center. With Parker stepping to the free throw line the entire building erupted in chants of “M-V-P”. Parker later claimed he has heard the chants before, though this was perhaps the loudest they have been directed at him. And certainly the first time it felt appropriate.
“Tony Parker’s focus, leadership, and play were really fine tonight,” San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said.
“He was great, he took control of the game,” Duncan said. “He was getting frustrated early on, but he got some shots to fall in the second half and started rolling from there.
“He’s been the guy for us all year long and he’s controlling the game. He’s making the right passes and making the shot when he has to. He’s been unbelievable.”
Statistically, this season would appear to be a direct continuation of the 2008 season that earned Parker hgis lone All-NBA honors. That season prompted Popovich to declare to the media the next offseason that he was handing the keys to the franchise to Parker.
Plantar fasciitis derailed those plans, and the emergence of Ginobili as the Spurs best player pushed Parker’s 2008 performance to the background.
Since then Parker has been the forgotten man when discussing the elite point guards in the NBA. Though as it stands this season, Parker has been the third best in the league, behind Chris Paul and reigning MVP Derrick Rose.
This version of Parker shows legitimate three-point range (2-4 last night), improved court vision, particularly as it pertains to reading the weak side defense (12 assists), and an ability to take over in the fourth quarter when it matters most (6-7 from the field, 3-3 from the free throw line, 16 points).
But a legitimate MVP candidate?
“Every time somebody asks me that question I have to laugh,” Parker said. “That’s LeBron and Durant stuff.”
It took long enough for the city of San Antonio to embrace the concept. A few more performances like last night, and perhaps Parker finally will too.