The Tony Parker Sacrifice

Fifteen years of Tony Parker- one NBA Finals MVP, four rings, 6 trips to the All-Star game, 1071 regular season games, 203 playoff games- was suddenly in the background when it came to the most critical defensive assignment of Parker’s regular season career. When Steph Curry stepped on the court last night, it was Parker’s job to make his life miserable. Easier said then done.

Perhaps Oscar Robertson was right when he said most NBA coaches don’t know what they are doing. They don’t chase Curry. They don’t pick him up full court. They don’t crowd him. They let Curry dictate out of pick and roll, and not the other way around. Oscar wasn’t talking about Gregg Popovich but the rest of those stiffs that let Curry have all the freedom he wants, allowing him to get comfortable. Pop turned Tony loose but with a caveat. We don’t need Tony the scorer. We need Tony the defender.

A couple of days ago, Parker was open about his thoughts on the Warriors “greatness.” The bandwagon is pretty crowded with the live in the moment crowd that puts the Warriors and Curry as the best team in NBA history after one title. The Mavericks of 2011 only won one title and no one called them great. The Celtics of 2008 only one won title. The Pistons of 2004 held the trophy up just once. But the Warriors, who deserve all the press they are getting for this phenomenal season, are suddenly vaulted into the stratosphere because Steph Curry is doing amazing things from behind the three point line and with the dribble.

Parker wants every one to slow their roll.

“I’ll say they’ve been having an unbelievable season. Being in the league 15 years, it’s tough to try to get 70 wins with all the back-to-backs and all the great teams you have in the league. So it’s pretty impressive. Compare them to the Bulls. They won six titles in eight years. So you have to give a little bit of time to that team to see how well they’re going to do over 10 years, the longevity. The Spurs, we’ve won five titles since ’99. That’s how you judge teams.”

Parker then followed up his back door compliment of the Warriors with a career defining defensive effort. He never let up as the Curry irritator, shadowing him everywhere. Yes, Curry missed some shots he normally makes but what Parker did in sacrificing one part of his game for another, was to make Curry uncomfortable. NBA players don’t like to be uncomfortable. It makes them think and they want to feel, react, be in a rhythm.

Steph Curry, by his own admission, is superstitious to a fault. The same meal, the same shoes, the same routine, the same number of dribbles in shoot-around. By halftime of yesterday’s game, he had changed his shoes, according to Warriors ESPN reporter Ethan Strauss. He never looked comfortable and as the game wore on he appeared fatigued which meant that Parker and company- he couldn’t do it alone- did their job. Whether it was LaMarcus Aldridge coming out to bother Curry on a switch or Parker forcing him into a double or Danny Green blocking his shot- it was the Oscar Robertson rule on Curry. Get into him.

A Saturday night in San Antonio Points 3-Point% Assists Contested Shots% +/-
Steph Curry 14 .08% 6 18.2% -10
Tony Parker 6 50% 6 0% +11

This season, Parker is almost the forgotten man. All the talk has been of Aldridge fitting in and Kawhi Leonard getting no recognition for a MVP season because he is in Curry’s shadow.

While Curry and his cohorts, Damian Lillard, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, are basking in the media sun, there is Tony Parker, still the Spurs floor leader and having perspective on this extraordinary of a Spurs season. “We’re going to have to play like that if we want to beat them. We tried to play fast and we got beat by 30.”

The Spurs train rolls on, next stop Charlotte on Monday and a less complicated Tony Parker task, but not an easy one.  Stop Kemba Walker.


photo via llananba