Point Guard Power Part 1- Guest Contribution

 

Tony Parker Jump shot in Game 1 of the NBA Finals

Tony Parker Jump shot in Game 1 of the NBA Finals

Tony Parker started at the top of the key, drove right, bounced out to underneath the three point line, fell down, kept his dribble with his back to the basket, undercut LeBron James’ stifling defense, double clutched a shot from 15 feet away while in midair right before the shot clock buzzed, banked high off the back board, bounced on the front of the rim for a split second, and fell through the hoop. That shot gave the Spurs a four-point lead with less than six seconds remaining and with that, clinched Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Parker turned towards his bench, gave a huge fist bump and screamed as his teammates swarmed him during the timeout. Was everyone in Miami shocked at what had taken place? Yes. Was Tony Parker shocked at what had taken place? No.

While at the age of 31, Tony Parker continues to prove to the NBA world why he has no signs of slowing down. With Jason Kidd stepping down from the game of basketball last week, the NBA community said good-bye to one of the last pure point guards to play the game. Kidd finished second all-time in assists (12,091), third all-time in three point shots made (1988), and second all-time in steals (2684). In the 1,391 games, spread throughout Kidd’s 19-season career, Kidd led the league in assists five times. More importantly, he managed to win one NBA championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. Kidd knows how to play through adversity and understands the mental toughness of winning on the NBA’s biggest stage, which is something that Tony Parker knows a little about as well.

Parker entered the league as the 28th pick in the 2001 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs. He was the last pick of the first round behind guys like Kwame Brown and Eddy Curry, who were in the top 5 picks. He has enjoyed any basketball player’s dream by winning not one, but three championships along the way and has exemplified what teams look for in a potential player: loyalty, modesty, and heart. He has performed at the highest level for over ten years and every game we see something new from him. Such as his late game heroics in Game 1 of the finals. As the shot trickled through the rim, his reaction wasn’t surprise or shock, it was confidence and poise. Something that is extremely valued at this point in the season. Tony Parker’s game has evolved over the past four years and as he’s gotten older, his numbers continue to improve.

Year

MPG

PPG

APG

RPG

3pt%

FT%

2009-2010

30.9

16.0

5.7

2.4

.294

.756

2010-2011

32.4

17.5

6.6

3.1

.357

.769

2011-2012

32.0

18.3

7.7

2.9

.230

.799

2012-2013

32.9

20.3

7.6

3.0

.353

.845

At this point in Parker’s career, he is approaching the end of his prime. He knows his chances to capture another championship becomes harder and harder. The competitiveness of the league is growing stronger and knowing full well that this could end up being Parker’s last time on the big stage; he isn’t going to let it go to waste. While every team and player aspires for the chance to play in the NBA Finals, the harsh reality is that only one team can win. Tony Parker knows this situation all too well. He’s taken the passenger seat when the Spurs won it all behind Tim Duncan in 2003 and 2005 but he also knows when to take control, earning himself the NBA Finals MVP following his third championship in 2007. It’s been a longer time in between finals appearances but the time away from the big stage hasn’t changed Parker’s mindset. Like Jason Kidd, Parker resembles some of the old-school basketball that seems to be disappearing in today’s game. Whether this lack of old-school basketball is for better or worse remains to be seen but as the game changes, Parker only gets better.

Tony Parker’s play in Game 1 of the NBA Finals showed us something. He makes every possession count, evidence by an impressive zero turnover night. In the fourth quarter alone, Parker scored ten of his twenty-one points and started pushing the ball in transition. When there was a missed shot, he ran to the ball, pushed the ball up the court, and executed the offense. The quick transition from defense to offense forced the Heat to be mentally focused at all times, which is one of the reasons that the Spurs were able to stay in the game and eventually take the lead. Eventually, as more and more attention is directed towards Parker, the floor becomes easier to read for him. With roughly 2:20 left in the game, the Spurs were leading 85-81. Gregg Popovich started hollering out orders for the offensive set, making sure players were in the correct spots. This is usually the time where the team with the lead starts to soak up the clock and waste time. Parker noticed Miami lackadaisically coming back on defense and upon receiving the ball, rushed up the left side, passes the ball to Manu Ginobili who finds Danny Green for a three, making the game 88-81 Spurs, with 2:10 left.

The NBA Finals are always full of defining moments that go down in history and become part of NBA folklore. While Danny Green’s three may not be one of those moments, the play speaks the style of Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs. They aren’t looking for the open shot on offense; they’re looking for the right shot. This is what Tony Parker creates with his tempo at the point guard position. Knowing the difference between when to slow down and when to speed up is crucial in crunch time and was the difference in Game 1. If Parker were to slow the game down and hold till the last moments of the shot clock on the Danny Green possession, Danny Green never gets to take that shot and you’re now looking at a rushed shot to beat the shot clock. The Heat are now only down five with two minutes remaining, as opposed to down eight with 2 minutes remaining. As a point guard in the NBA, controlling the tempo of a game is imperative to winning. Seeing Jason Kidd leave the NBA is difficult in that respect because he was always a pass-first, team-oriented player. He stepped up in games when he had to and controlled the tempo, just as Parker was able to do in Game 1. Parker now becomes one of very few point guards to have this style of play. While it’s hard to depict what Parker embodies as a point guard, there is a clear change in the way the position has been played and managed in the last ten years. Has that changed Parker’s game though? I’m obliged to say no.

Stay tuned for Part II. Discussing the ways the point guard position has changed over the last ten years as we break down each starting point-guard from the 2013 NBA Playoffs.

Joe Meola

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