by Dennis Tarwood / @tuffyr
How did you spend your summer vacation? A little light reading? Scrubbing ducks on the seashore? Stuffing your mattress with canned goods in preparation for the economic apocalypse part deux?
Tony Parker spent his summer being lectured about the proper amount of hand-holding. That’s what happens when you miss your first summer away from the French boys in six years to spend more time with the family and to heal up from the most miserable season of your professional career thus far.
2010-2011 needs to hold far more success for the 28-year-old if he plans to avoid his own economic collapse as he cannonballs into the free agency pool just in time for America Held Hostage: Just About Every Damned Sports League Shuts Down Over Petty Nonsense. Despite the turmoil to come, this will likely represent the final major payday in Parker’s lifetime.
If he’s successful this season, the last twelve months will be scrubbed from the collective consciousness as an aberration. His sharply reduced assists, excessive turnovers, and slightly less efficient shooting touch will be ascribed to his sprained ankle, strained hip flexor, broken right hand, and other miscellaneous witchcraft that kept him out of 26 games.
If his offensive performances against the Suns in the Western Conference Semis (three 20+ point games, 5 apg) serve as a guide, Eva Longoria can continue to socking acting cash away in her $15,000 security mattress.
However, small sample sizes aside, those numbers came largely against noted bullfighter Steve Nash (“Olé!”). Parker returned the favor to Nash (22 ppg, 7+ apg, 5-11 3-pt) and all other foes he gamely attempted to defend last season.
Watching tape on Parker from 2009-2010 is like watching the Westminster Dog Show with every opposing point guard playing the role of dog handlers pulling him through all the pick-and-roll obstacles on the way to the hoop. (Note to San Antonio: consider Fred Willard as your color man this season.)
While his assists, turnovers, and Offensive Rating last season clearly stand out against his previous few seasons, Parker’s defensive results last season (as measured by Defensive Rating, which kindly forgives days off) are clearly part of a consistent decline difficult to write off as post-injury fatigue or lingering random pain.
Has Parker lost a step while playing around 100 games per season over the last six years (including national team duties, preseason, etc.) and after starting his professional career at 17? After all, he has managed to miss at least 10 games for each of the last three seasons due to issues up and down his left side.
It’s indeed possible, but consider another fact: Tim Duncan is 34 years old and starting to show it.
Duncan’s blocks (adjusted for pace) and Defensive Rating have lost ground year-over-year for the last four seasons, much like Parker’s Defensive Rating. Parker might be slipping against other point guards, but he’s definitely not being bailed out as much anymore by the Merlin Wall. Parker probably hopes Tiago Splitter abandons his solid low-post defense in favor of filing the permits at San Antonio City Hall to host his own block party.
Parker’s offensive counting numbers will suffer a bit next season as well due to the growth of George Hill and the hope placed on Garrett Temple. (Just don’t ask Pop how much.) However, as long as Parker retains his lesson from last season that the perimeter is hot lava and the lane is the safesies zone, he probably won’t harm his offensive value in the eyes of prospective employers.
Parker continues to be defined by others in his adulthood: Duncan, Popovich, Longoria. When his current contract expires, though, he will receive his first true opportunity to establish his own identity by selecting a new team where others can wrap themselves around his needs.
Therefore, he doesn’t play this season just for financial security; he must stay thrive to regain his status as a premier free agent and claim some semblance of control over his own destiny. Otherwise, another round of injuries could force him to take whatever is offered by the Spurs and remain Tim Duncan’s point guard.
That next employer might well be the Knicks (for who ignores facts as well as Jimmy Dolan?), but Parker seems confident enough that a deal will be done with the Spurs that he plans to play for the French national team again next summer to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics despite potentially being a free agent.
It’s that or spend another summer forced to hold Eva Longoria’s hand. After all, he’ll always be Mr. Longoria; some redefinitions aren’t worth the trouble.
(Statistics from Basketball-Reference)
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