Being Tim Duncan’s teammate has helped Parker become wise. Since Parker was a rookie, he has had to direct the Spurs, develop his own game and defer to a future Hall of Fame post player. That’s a lot for a young fella to handle. And in his first two seasons, Parker shared the court with two Hall of Fame big men: Duncan and David Robinson.
Not surprisingly, Parker experienced growing pains. He tried to get it all figured out while coping with Coach Gregg Popovich’s tough-love style. What came from all of that is something beautiful to see.
There are so few gifted low-post centers in the game today, “young guards . . . don’t understand that part of the game,” Thomas said. “Parker understands how to control tempo using the center position. [He] also understands how to control tempo with pick-and-roll [plays]. He has mastered the game in terms of being able to play both ways.
“Over the years, he has improved his jump shot. When he first came into the league, he wasn’t a guy who was known for knocking down the 18- to 20-foot shot. Now, he’s deadly with that shot. His mid-range game is tight. And he’s always been a great finisher around the rim.”
Parker is happiest when he’s helping Duncan. At 37, Duncan this season was selected first-team all-NBA (Parker was a second-team pick). Although Parker led the Spurs in scoring during the regular season and tops their list in the postseason, he always takes care of Duncan. That’s the way old-school point guards roll: rewarding the post players for easy buckets whenever possible.
“Now, in the new school, a big guy will run the floor,” Thomas said, “and they’ll kick it out to another guard for a three-point shot on a three-on-two fast break.
“In the last series [against Memphis], you saw Duncan . . . outrunning Randolph, Gasol . . . and getting easy buckets. Those old-school values are still taught in that San Antonio system. Tony Parker plays the game a traditional way.”
There are no surprises with Parker. The Heat knows what’s coming. Doing something about it is the problem.
For more by Jason Reid, go to washingtonpost.com/reid.