Is Tony Parker Still The Answer For The San Antonio Spurs?

Tony Parker, the star point guard for the San Antonio Spurs has only shown glimpses of his normal self for the past two seasons. Is it time to look elsewhere?

When I first heard that San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker was already overseas in France, playing for the French national team and preparing for his final Olympics appearance, my immediate thought was: he can stay there.

Don’t get it twisted: I have enjoyed seeing Parker play for most of the past 15 seasons, since he earned a starting spot during his rookie year in 2001. The wily guard was always fun to see juking through defenders in the paint en route to what looked like an easy basket.

But that Parker has disappeared in the wake of injuries, a perceived apathy and good ol’ Father Time.

At 34, Parker is the youngest of the (Old) Big Three trio that includes Tim Duncan (40) and Manu Ginobili (39). He can still be productive, but that production has come more and more in spurts, instead of his usual consistency.

The native of Belgium was drafted by the Spurs when he was just 19 years old, an unknown player who did most of his hooping in France (with a stint at the Nike Hoop Summit in 2000), where he was raised.

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Since then, he has weathered constant adjustments to the ever-evolving NBA and tirades from head coach Gregg Popovich to become one of the three player pillars upon which the Spurs Collective rests.

As the Spurs tweak their future in order to remain relevant in the league, it may be time for Parker to step down from his starting role.

Parker, when asked about doing so, told Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News that he has no problem doing it if Popovich so desires.

That’s nice to say, and there’s no reason to doubt that Parker means it.  The test will come when (or if) he has to back up his words. After all, he does have his pride, as all pro athletes do.

I am very excited about the future of the Spurs.

The drafting of Washington’s DeJounte Murray last week, plus signing undrafted free agent Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono to a partially guaranteed contract, shows that the Spurs are committed to adjusting to a league that is getting younger, faster, and more agile every season.

Jun 23, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Dejounte Murray (Washington) greets NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected as the number twenty-nine overall pick to the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Villanova Wildcats guard Ryan Arcidiacono at a press conference after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels in the championship game of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Final Four at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Eyeing the Spurs 2016 Summer League roster lends even more hope: in addition to Murray and Arcidiacono, others lacing up for Orlando and Las Vegas include Michigan State guard Bryn Forbes and Angel Rodriguez of the University of Miami and Kansas State University.

Rodriguez did a solid turn during the NCAA tournament before his No. 3-seeded Hurricanes fell to Arcidiacono’s Wildcats in the South Region semifinal.

Mar 24, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Miami Hurricanes guard Angel Rodriguez (13) drives to the basket against Villanova Wildcats guard Jalen Brunson (1) during the second half in a semifinal game in the South regional of the NCAA Tournament at KFC YUM!. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Forbes, Rodriguez and Arcidiacono are all four-year players, which the Spurs haven’t seen much since Duncan arrived in 1997.

Fun fact: Murray, Arcidiacono, and Rodriguez are all point guards. Just saying.

In addition to the distractions due to his injuries (hamstring and ankle, just in this past season alone), Parker just hasn’t seemed that engaged since the birth of his first child, Josh, in 2014. With the impending birth of his second child this July, I don’t see that improving.

Plus, Parker’s committment to represent France in the 2016 Summer Olympics will mean that he will be running on fumes come training camp in September–which means that the onus will fall even heavier on other players when the season starts in October.

Parker has long since expressed his desire to retire a Spur, and play for at least 20 seasons (similar to Duncan’s career length of 19 seasons so far). After he retires, he wants to end up a general manager for an NBA team.

I’m not batting an eye at the latter goal, as he has the temperament to survive in a team’s front office (he is the majority owner and president of the championship French basketball club ASVEL, so he has some executive basketball experience).

As for him playing 20 seasons, well … the spirit may be willing, but the flesh might take issue.

Despite the various ailments the battled this season, Parker is still crafty at getting to the basket. However, he can no longer keep up with the speedier and more athletic guards in the league.

One solution to try and prolong his career while staving off further wear on his body would be for Parker to come off the bench this upcoming season, as Ginobili has done for the past two seasons. The problem with that is: who else do the Spurs have to fill in?

As thrilled as I am for the arrival of Murray, Arcidiacono, and Rodriguez (and it remains to be seen if the latter two make the final roster in October), they are all works in progress.

It is doubtful that they will make any significant impact during the regular season, as either or all will more than likely spending most of their time with the team’s D-League affiliate, the Austin Spurs, like most Spurs rookies do.

Patty Mills is a serviceable backup, but I don’t see him in a regular starting rotation. His shooting arm still isn’t quite right after recovering from surgery in 2014 and he was a bit streaky this season.

Danny Green is part of the New Big Three starting trio (along with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge) and he’s more three-and-D than running the point. Leonard is a 2-guard, but could run the point in limited situations (maybe switch off those responsibilities with Mills?).

Ginobili could run the point as well, but he still hasn’t decided if he’s retiring or not. That leaves the only other option: filling this need with a more seasoned veteran once free agency begins on July 1.

The Spurs have been linked to Mike Conley, of the Memphis Grizzlies, at the point guard position, and I have listed some other unorthodox options at that and other positions.

There are a lot of guards entering free agency this year, so the Spurs shouldn’t have a problem finding the right fit for the right price.

Parker has been an invaluable member of the Spurs and has four championship rings to prove it.  Still, Father Time will not be denied, and it may be time for him to hand the point guard keys over to someone better suited to physically deal with that position.

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