Friday, November 29, 2013

Tony Parker: 'I Am Hitting My Prime'

San Antonio Spurs' point guard Tony Parker has been in the NBA since the 2001-2002 season. Parker has won three NBA Championships and was named the 2007 NBA Finals MVP. (

San Antonio Spurs' point guard Tony Parker is in the midst of another fantastic season, despite playing his fewest minutes per game since 2001-2002. According to Mike Monroe of San Antonio Express News, Parker said that he is hitting his prime.

Parker is averaging 17.7 points per game, shooting 53.2 percent from the field and distributing 6.2 assists per game this season. He has been able to produce these numbers despite playing only 30.2 minutes per game; he played 29.4 minutes per game in 2001-2002.

His rookie season was in 2001-2002 when he was 19-years-old.

Parker did not play in the Spurs' Friday night game, but he did have a good game on Wednesday. He scored 16 points, made six of 16 field goal attempts-37.5 percent, recorded six assists and a steal.

He has had a very good career in the NBA. He has won three NBA Championships, been named to five All-Star teams and was named the 2007 NBA Finals MVP.

This is his 13th season in the NBA, he is 31-years-old, and the Spurs were able to nab one of the biggest steals in NBA Draft history in 2001.

The Spurs had the last pick, 28th, in the 2001 NBA Draft and the team's personnel chief, R.C. Buford, did not expect Parker to be available for their pick, according to Jan Hubbard of Two of the guards taken ahead of Parker have proven to be very good players, Joe Johnson and Jason Richardson.

The player selected before Parker was point guard Jamal Tinsley. Tinsley has primarily been a backup point guard and the Vancouver Grizzlies have to be disappointed that they passed on Parker.

Parker has easily proven to be a steal for the Spurs. He has averaged at least 14 points per game and five assists per game since the 2002-2003 season.

He has developed a very good jump shot to coincide with a great dribble penetration game. He is arguably one of the toughest point guard to defend in the paint because he can score over taller defenders or deal out precise passes to teammates like future Hall of Fame power forward Tim Duncan or shooting guard Manu GinĂ³bili.

Monroe reported on Friday that Parker said he is hitting his prime.

Parker has performed phenomenally the previous five seasons.

During that time period, he finished in the top 10 of the MVP voting three times and eclipsed 20 points per game and seven assists per game twice. His jump shooting and dribble penetration has improved tremendously over the past five seasons.

Many NBA analysts and fans consider Parker one of the best, if not the best, point guard in the NBA. The two deterrent in Parker continuing to perform superbly in his 'prime' is his health and head coach Gregg Popovich.

Outside of the shortened 2011-2012 season, Parker has failed to play in more than 70 games in three of the past five seasons. He missed Friday's game due to a sprained ankle.

Two of the elite point guards in the league, Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo and Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose, have sustained injuries while playing similarly to Parker. Rondo and Rose both sustained injuries while driving in the paint and that could happen to Parker if his legs are unable to handle a dribble penetration or he lands awkwardly.

Popovich could also be a deterrent to Parker's 'prime.'

According to Monroe, Popovich is limiting Parker's minutes this season to avoid fatigue. He has played in at least 34 minutes in a game only four times this season.

Popovich is consistently focused on having his team healthy for deep playoffs runs instead of individual performances. This means that one of the best players on the team, Parker, will miss games, so he is healthy for another playoff run.

Parker compares his playing style to future Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash, currently on the Los Angeles Lakers according to Monroe.

“When I see Steve Nash being an All-Star at 38, I feel like I've got the same kind of game,” he said. “Neither one of us jumps that much. We're sort of like the kings of layups and great pick-and-roll players, so I can see myself playing that long, too.”

A player's prime typically lasts for three to five seasons. Nash's five seasons once he turned 31-years-old were extraordinary, 2005-2006 to 2009-2010.

During that time span, he averaged at least 15 points and nine assists per game. He finished in the top 10 for MVP four times, including being voted the 2005-2006 MVP.

Parker has clearly shown no signs of slowing down. It is tough to picture him getting any better because he is already such a dominant point guard.

It is very plausible that he will maintain these great numbers for the next three to five seasons. It might be tough for him to dominate like this with Duncan and Ginobili most likely to retire within the next three seasons.

This would put more pressure on Parker to dominate and it would lead to teams double-teaming him. No matter what he does during his 'prime,' he will be considered one of the best players in the post-Michael Jordan era.

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