On Saturday night at the AT&T Center, Spurs quarterback Tony Parker displayed the complete game that made him an All-Star reserve selection earlier in the week, pumping in 31 points, 7 dimes, 4 boards, and 2 steals in a 109-99 victory over the Phoenix Suns. After three quarters of plodding basketball, Parker took over the game in the fourth with 11 points, as part of his sixth 30-plus point effort for the season. After the contest, the five-time All-Star reflected on his evolution as a fourth quarter closer.
"You know me as a basketball player, I am always trying to improve every year,” said Parker. “Over the last few years it is becoming my team and Coach Pop is always challenging me to become that franchise player who closes games and makes good decisions with the ball offensively for myself and my teammates. I always take to heart Pop's challenges."
"He is unbelievable” added teammate Manu Ginobili, himself a two-time All-Star. “I cannot say he became a fourth quarter finisher this year because of how he played last year, especially in the first two months. But he is in that point of his career where he is so confident. He is doing so good that he can relax a little bit in the first half and then when we need him, he starts making those jumpers and takes over."
Parker will be joined at All-Star Weekend in Houston next month by Tim Duncan who will be making his 14th appearance at the NBA’s mid-season classic. Riding an eight-game winning streak, the Spurs All-Star duo should see another familiar face on the sidelines as Head Coach Greg Popovich is on pace to lead the Western squad. A grassroots campaign being promoted by Luke Bonner to have his brother Matt participate in the Three-Point Competition on All-Star Saturday night has been picking up steam via twitter, encouraging the league to #LetBonnerShoot.
Six years ago in Houston, Parker was a first time All-Star and aspiring rapper who utilized the spotlight of the Black Super Bowl to reinvent himself before the NBA elite. A third championship and an NBA Finals MVP soon followed as well as additional All-Star nods. Since then Parker has wisely hung up the mic, leaving the hip-hop game to teammates like DeJuan Blair and Stephen Jackson, garnering MVP votes along the way. Look for Tony to continue to dominate when the Spurs face the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night. — M. Solis