Enjoying Duncan, Manu and Parker
Spurs fans have been fortunate over the years for many things, but a couple really stand out. San Antonio has three great players who have played their entire careers thus far in the silver and black. That’s unheard of in the modern game. Then there’s the quality of those three players: top notch. At one point or another, all three have been near the apex of their position.
This post is my reminder to you, and myself, to enjoy them while they’re here and still playing at a high level. Tim Duncan continues to baffle me as to why he’s still so good. His box score numbers don’t reflect it, but Duncan can dominate a game on command. Duncan now has the fortune of being able to pick and choose when to assert himself, much like an old dog will every now and then pick up a ball and go all out for another game of fetch, even when the years are adding up.
It’s so rare to see a big man with the efficiency and all-around game of a Tim Duncan. So many big men in the NBA are raw athletes with limited skills. Or those with great skills are often limited athletically. Duncan is no longer the athlete he once was (and he was an athlete), but he still has great strength and footwork, even if the quickness and explosion has eroded. A big man with the ability to put his stamp on all facets of the game, both offensively and defensively, is precious. Even in today’s NBA.
We’ve been robbed of some Manu Ginobili games this year, thanks to a broken hand, but they’re coming. As Manu slowly rounds into form, the GINOBLI! plays will return. Like the behind-the-back pass to DeJuan Blair on the fast break from a couple of seasons ago. I tune in to games in hopes of seeing moments like that just as much as I hope to see a win. The win is the destination and no one wants a boring journey. Manu knows only one way to play basketball and we can all be thankful for that.
I’ve long been of the opinion that Tony Parker was San Antonio’s least favorite Spur, at least among the Big 3. Parker will always be ahead of Matt Bonner and Richard Jefferson in the Spurs fan pecking order. Tony Parker had the Hollywood wife for a time and always seemed on the verge of leaving San Antonio for New York or Los Angeles. I always assumed Spurs fans protected themselves against the inevitability of Tony Parker leaving by showering more praise on Duncan and Manu.
Only Tony Parker never left. Even when he was entering a contract year and rumors were swirling of him eventually joining Amaré Stoudemire in New York, Parker re-signed with the Spurs for a more-than-fair deal. Many of us have unfairly expected the worst in Parker and never really given him his due as a Spur.
And now, Parker is having his best season. I, like many others, assumed that Parker was firmly on the downslope of his career. He’ll be 30 in May and guards who rely so much on their quickness rarely age well. Parker carried the team while Manu Ginobili was out and earned a place on the All-Star team. He put a greater emphasis on distributing the ball and as a result, the Spurs not only weathered the storm of Manu’s absence, they excelled. Second in the West, just a game and a half behind the Thunder. ESPN currently has Parker ranked seventh in its own MVP voting.
I don’t pretend to know how the rest of this season unfolds, nor how the Spurs will look in the coming years. So make sure to enjoy the team for what it is now, and while these three great players resemble something near their peaks; or at least the ability to reproduce nights like they routinely had in those years. There’s still a lot of greatness to watch on the Spurs, cherish it while it’s around. There’s no guarantee that the next generation of Spurs will possess the same.