When the names of the league’s best point guards start being hurled around with reckless abandon, there is one name that consistently gets ignored.
Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose when healthy all make the list with ease, but it isn’t until seven or eight players have been mentioned that Tony Parker’s name is uttered. Perhaps it’s because Parker has spent his career playing in the shadow of the mammoth figure that is Tim Duncan or perhaps it’s that he doesn’t lead the league in assists or scoring or steals.
Maybe it’s the fact that he’s always played with a talented team around him that includes one of the best sixth men to ever play the game. Or maybe it’s because he’s never played under a bad coach or had to endure a terrible season. Whatever the reason is, it’s unfair.
When a player has the illustrious type career that Parker has, critics step aside and let his work stand. That doesn’t mean they forget him about him though and fail to mention a three time champion when the best of the best conversation comes up. Parker is a leader for the Spurs and an example of what a point guard can achieve when he has the trust of his coach.
Parker is averaging 19.2 points per game to go with 7 assists in his twelfth season, numbers that are above his career averages of 17 and 6. The Spurs have won nine of their last 12 games, a span in which Parker is averaging 21 points and 6.5 assists.
Over the last few years as Duncan has taken a step back in his minutes and overall play as Parker has picked up the pace and grabbed hold of the reins of the Spurs offense to become the focal point. San Antonio runs as many pick and rolls as anyone in the league with Parker as the main catalyst of their success.
Defensively, the Frenchman has always averaged around one steal per game, numbers he is matching this year, but the Spurs are not the defensive power house they were in the past. They are currently ranked 13th in the league in defense, but thanks to Parker’s inspiring play, they are the third best offensive team around and haven’t missed a beat going 28-11.
On Friday, the Spurs lost to Memphis 101-98 in overtime, but if not for Parker, they would have fallen by a far more significant margin to their division enemies and would have never made it to overtime. The veteran guard finished with 30 points and 5 assists on the night while playing 42 minutes that included a buzzer beating three pointer after running sixty feet that tied the game at the end of regulation.
His performance wasn’t enough to propel San Antonio to victory, but it showed that he continues to possess the quickness and vision to trouble even the best defensive teams. Parker gets into the lane as well as any point guard around and once in there, he can finish as efficiently as anyone.
So why does Parker not get the respect of critics when it comes to All-Star voting and heaps of praise? Of the big name point guards around the league, there are none with as many championships as Parker, none with the proven track record of success. Despite his stellar play in three title runs and two more Western Conference Finals trips, Parker has only made the All-Star game four times.
Playing in a small market can be tough. Ask Deron Williams about his years in Utah failing to bring him the notoriety he desired, so he left to a bigger market. But, for Parker, there will be no leaving San Antonio. He is where he belongs and has been able to achieve incredible success. Sometimes great players are overlooked and sometimes good players are overhyped.
Parker is clearly overlooked, but when he retires in a few years time, it will have been a privilege for most basketball fans to have watched the Frenchman’s career transpire, even it did so quietly.