The San Antonio Spurs want Tony Parker to evolve into more of a facilitator this season. The 34-year old is heading into his 16th season in the NBA and his game will need to change.
Parker’s game has been built on being a scoring point guard but he’ll now work to setup LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard and Pau Gasol during the 2016-17 season.
“It’s hard to explain the way I felt, but for sure I think my role is even bigger [now] on the leadership thing.” – Parker on his new role
In the past, Parker earned recognition as one of the league’s top scoring point guards, but he has since become more of a game manager whose responsibilities now mostly entail setting up the club’s younger offensive threats.
The future Hall of Famer knows that his role is changing and he in fact takes on the role and how much he has grown to love it.
“It’s been great,” Parker said of his changing role. “I love my role, and I’ll try to do the best I can this year to keep winning games.”
He goes on to talk on the Spurs winning a franchise-record 67 games just over a season ago and states that as long as Gregg Popovich is happy, than his job is complete.
“You know, we won 67 games last year. We’ll try to do the same thing and go further in the playoffs. As long as [Gregg Popovich] is happy, that’s my main job here. I don’t care if people don’t understand my role or all this stuff I have to do now.”
That is what makes players on the Spurs team so easily to coach. They know going in whom the key players are and whom the offense flows throw. Parker knows his time is coming to an end.
Parker in Game 3 of San Antonio’s matchup at Oklahoma City in the 2016 Western Conference semifinals culminated in a 100-96 Spurs win and 2-1 series lead.
During that game, Parker turned in a vintage performance with 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists in that victory. That may have been the last glimpse Spurs fans may see of the scoring outbursts.
Sep 26, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (9) poses for photos during media day at the Spurs training facility. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
For three straight seasons, Parker’s scoring average has gradually fallen; it’s way off from 2012-13, when he averaged 20.3 points per game.
Parker finished last season at 11.9 PPG, his lowest rate since 2001-02, his rookie season.
San Antonio’s offense has gradually moved away from relying on his ability to penetrate. What their offense is featuring is more post-ups and isolations on the wing. Leonard and Aldridge have developed into a nice 1-2 punch for San Antonio.
Spurs will likely continue the same style this season.
During the time where Parker was the aggressor on the offensive end was the time Leonard came into the league. He remembers when the scoring load came from the Frenchman.
“[It was] just him trying to score a lot of points, just really carrying us. We didn’t have the talent level that we have now, and as he’s slowed down, Pop has given him a different role.”
Others who see their role decline can cause tension in the locker room and on the floor. But with Parker, he has accepted his new role and Popovich has seen it.
“He’s done that more and more,” Popovich said. “He’s done a great job, just like David [Robinson] did for Tim [Duncan] and Tim did for Manu [Ginobili] and Tony. Now they’re realizing the ball needs to go in different places, and Tony is finding out he’s pretty darned skilled at it. He’s been really great in practice at finding open people.”
For Ginobili, he too has seen a dip in his role but he is looking forward to seeing how Parker develops his game.
“Yeah, it’s a transition that everyone goes through with years and with experience, and the addition of new, younger talent,” Ginobili said. “He’s understood it, and he’s done it really well. He, of course, at the beginning is going to have some ups and downs, and sometimes even some frustration. But I think he went past that, and we are looking forward to seeing him mature in that aspect and keep going but in different role — not in the one where we need 20 [points] and 10 [assists] from him.”
Ginobili touches on some key points. Parker though in a phase of his career where he needs to facilitate more and more does not need to score 20+ a game. He though will continue to pick his spots and find ways to be a weapon for San Antonio.
Parker though is taking everything in stride and knows that his role now it much bigger then how it used to be.
“It’s hard to explain the way I felt, but for sure I think my role is even bigger [now] on the leadership thing,” Parker said. Now, the key is to spread “the Spurs mentality and the way we play: unselfish, sharing the ball, only caring about winning, and winning championships. That was the best thing about Timmy when I first came in, [him] showing all of us how to do it.”
Understanding change, and dealing with to make the best opportunities for everyone is what makes this San Antonio team so special.