This article is cross-posted at Spurs Basketball
With San Antonio Spurs star guard Manu Ginobili injured for most of the season, the Spurs have manage to stay near the top of the standings with a 24-10 record.
Thanks in large part to Tony Parker who has been carrying much of the Spurs’ offensive load this season.
Parker made his fourth All-Star appearance in Orlando scoring six points, dishing out four assists and grabbing two rebounds in 12 minutes of action, and seem to enjoy the All Star weekend.
As the regular season resumes on Wednesday for the Spurs, Parker will be back to his task of directing and leading his team on offense.
With Tim Duncan at age 35 and slowing, and Ginobili these days spending more time in street clothes than in uniform, Parker has emerged as the lead horse of a team that still harbors credible NBA title aspirations.
“He’s been our everything,” said Duncan, who will miss the All-Star Game for the first time in his career. “He’s played MVP caliber, he really has.”
Ginobili put it even more starkly.
“This is Tony’s team now,” he said.
In 33 games this season, Parker is averaging averaging 19.4 points and a career-best 8.1 assists, and had a streak of four consecutive points-assists double-doubles.
“With Manu out, I have to do a lot more,” Parker said. “I have to be in attack mode the whole time.”
Apart from the numbers, Popovich has been impressed by Parker’s decision-making and control of the game. Night in and night out, Parker seems to sense what the Spurs need, and gives it to them.
Some of Parker’s box scores this season have been mind boggling: 34 points and 14 assists at Toronto, 30 points and 10 assists against the Clippers, 20 points and a career-high 17 assists at New Orleans.
“It’s his most complete season as a point guard,” Popovich said. “When you consider all aspects of the game — offense, deciding when to score and when to involve people, what’s the time of game, what’s the score, what’s going on, who’s hot, who’s rolling, playing defense at the other end and then being a leader out on the court — he’s doing all of those things better than he ever has.”
Opposing coaches have begun to focus on Parker as the head of the Spurs’ snake. When a team faces the Spurs nowadays, limiting Parker’s penetration is typically the emphasis of the defensive game plan.
“Tony Parker is playing the best basketball he’s ever played,” Denver coach George Karl said. “There’s no question about that at all. Before, you always thought you could turn him over a little bit and force him into bad decisions. The games I’ve watched, I haven’t seen any of that.”
L.A. Clippers point guard Chris Paul, who will start ahead of Parker for the West All-Stars tonight, believes his Spurs counterpart has been annually underrated.
“Tony’s been doing the same thing he’s doing now for the past eight, 10 years,” Paul said. “When you know basketball, you appreciate it.”