Monday, June 22, 2009

48 Minutes Of Hell: Trading Tony Parker
Can Tony lead the Spurs to a fifth title? The little trophy in his left hand thinks so.
In recent weeks, we’ve discussed the numerous trade opportunities that are available to the Spurs. During these discussions, certain commenters have repeatedly floated an idea that I have yet to address formally: The idea of trading Tony Parker. Once or twice I have mentioned that I think trading Tony Parker is a bad idea, and is a much more drastic move than some realize, but I haven’t fully explained why.

First, I want to briefly touch upon what people seemingly want to trade him for. Different commenters have suggested different trades for different reasons, so I don’t want to treat the “Trade Tony” crowd as if they are some unified group. But, for the most part, advocates of trading Tony think we could acquire a number of young role players for our starting point guard. I feel like the most often mentioned trading partner is Portland, who has a glut of young talent. For instance, if we could acquire Nic Batum, Steve Blake and Greg Oden for Tony Parker (check the Trade Machine, it works), why wouldn’t you? Yes, we lose an All-Star Point Guard, but we acquire a potential All-Star center, a talented young wing, and a PG who can get the job done.

Although Portland is in the hunt for a marquee point, I don’t believe they would go for this. That being said, I am using this hypothetical situation because I believe it is the best possible trade the Spurs could get, and even though I disagree with the “Trade Tony” crowd, I don’t want to sell them short. I also don’t think the Spurs are at all interested in trading Tony for another All-Star, one for one. If the idea has even crossed Buford and Pop’s mind, it has crossed it along these lines.

So why, despite the proposed trade’s enormous upside, am I still opposed to it? Because trading Tony Parker is the equivalent of blowing it up. Yes, the team will continue to resemble its current manifestation for a couple of years whether Tony is traded or not, but by trading Tony the Front Office would be saying, “We are no longer trying to win another title during the Tim Duncan era. We are officially planning for the future.”

The reality of the matter is, this team needs to get deeper and younger, but it cannot become those things at the expense of Tony Parker. Let me make a couple of things clear, so people don’t jump to conclusions: By saying Tony Parker is a fundamental piece of our championship aspirations I am not saying Manu Ginobili isn’t. So many people treat the situation as an either/or while, in fact, neither of them has won an NBA championship without the other.

Let me rephrase: By surrounding a soon-to-be 32 year old Manu Ginobili and a 33 year old Tim Duncan with an assortment of still developing role players, you have not produced a championship roster. Players like Nic Batum and Greg Oden may be reliable contributors during deep playoff runs in 2 years, but by that time Manu and Tim will be in no position to lead them. The heart will always be there but the physical ability no longer will.

I am not saying this is necessarily a bad situation. If you are more interested in winning a championship in 5 years than during the next 2 or 3, than this probably sounds like an excellent idea. And in some ways it is. But to those of you who claim that the Spurs cannot win another title during the Duncan era without Manu and then turn around and say we should trade Tony: Your logic has led you down 2 different paths.

Even if you have resigned yourself to the idea that the championship run is over and would prefer the Spurs adopt a more long-term mentality, I still think trading Tony is a bad idea. I think that because the Spurs can get younger and deeper without trading Tony. And if you can achieve those admittedly crucial goals without sacrificing your elite point, than you don’t sacrifice him. It’s as simple as that.

As things currently stand, in 12 months only 3 players are still on the books: Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and George Hill. At that point in time, the Spurs will have all kinds of financial flexibility. With so many current members of the team set to retire at the end of next season, there is no need to panic and trade away our most valuable asset.

Although not as fundamental to my argument, I also like the idea of having some continuity between the generations. I like the fact that Robinson played alongside Duncan. I am glad that Duncan has taken the time to mentor Parker, despite their differing roles. And I look forward to the day when Parker can pass on that wisdom to a new generation of Spurs.

And yes, Parker does have the emotional and mental fiber to carry on the legacy of hard work and humility that has built this franchise. Spurs fans constantly refer to Parker as a “prima donna,” but you want to know what: I think that is bullshit. Parker may not emit the saintliness possessed by Ginobili or Duncan, but on the broader spectrum of NBA players, Parker is team-oriented and very hard-working. Have we so quickly forgotten that, in response to what seemed like endless verbal lashings from Pop early in his career, Parker put his head down and tried even harder? Or that he meticulously worked to reconstruct his shot, a laborious process few NBA players have the commitment to complete?

And the fact that he is a score-first point does not mean he is selfish. Our offensive system has never necessitated a pass-first small guard. The fact that he averaged almost 2.5 more FGA per game than he did in ‘07 is not a symbol of his selfishness: It symbolizes the fact that, when asked by Pop, he’s willing to permanently put himself in 5th gear.

The Spurs’ Yoko Ono

As an afterword to this piece, I’d like to address the signficance of someone we almost never mention here on 48 Minutes of Hell: Eva Longoria Parker. Mrs. Longoria Parker symbolizes the fears Spurs fans harbor about Tony: He is too enticed by the limelight and, when his contract is up in 2011, he will leave San Antonio for a larger market team, where he can indulge his supposed vanity.

I think this conception of Tony and Eva is patently absurd. First and foremost, as a native of South Texas, Eva has no reason to encourage Tony to leave San Antonio. She was a Spurs fan before they met. In fact, they were first introducted after a game she attended in San Antonio. Since they began dating, she has always been a committed supporter of the team and has never once hinted that she would like to see her husband in a different jersey. If Parker leaves San Antonio, there is no reason to believe it would be because of her.

(Quick Sidenote: Not surprisingly, the people I have met who are most adamant that Parker will leave San Antonio for a team on either coast are people who happen live on either coast. People from New York and LA can’t imagine why anyone would live in middle America! Colour me shocked.)

In general, this entire idea that superstars are looking to move to major market teams is based off of an antiquated sense of celebrity. Although the major American media companies are still located in New York and Los Angeles, the nature of new media and contemporary entertainment news coverage has begun to detach notoriety from physical locations.

For instance, despite the ambivalence many sports fans feel towards the Spurs, Parker still managed to grace the cover of the most recent edition of EA Sports NBA Live. He and his wife already own homes in Texas, Los Angeles, and Paris. During the offseason, they can spend as much time in any of those places as they like. And during the season, Parker is on the road half of the time anyways. The fact that his employer is technically located in San Antonio does not mean he has to spend his days twiddling his thumbs somewhere along the I-35 corridor.

The truth of the matter is, Parker has a good deal in San Antonio. He has the opportunity to be the centerpiece of a competitive franchise. He can complete his career alongside a coach and within an organization he loves and trusts. Market size aside, I see no reason why he would readily leave that situation.

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