|31 May 2012|
EUROPEANS IN THE NBA
|Tony Parker gave it his all to lead France to the EuroBasket final last September, but he still had the energy to jump in the stands and celebrate with fans|
Tony Parker has done nothing but play basketball since last summer, when he began preparing for the EuroBasket with France's national team.
Rest assured that no player in the game has performed as well as he has.
The French sports icon made the all-tournament team at EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania after serving as Les Bleus' talisman and leading them into the Final.
Parker was virtually unstoppable in the Baltics, averaging more than 22 points as the French not only reached the podium but booked a place in the Olympics for the first time since the 2000 Sydney Games.
They will be one of Europe's representatives in London in less than two months.
While Parker could have sat back and relaxed during the NBA Lockout that delayed the start of the season in North America until Christmas, he elected instead to play for ASVEL, the French top-flight club he owns shares in, that competed in the Eurocup this season.
Jaws dropped when Parker ran onto the floor at the Astroballe on 15 November and tore apart Valencia Basket in the Eurocup.
In his best game as an ASVEL player, Parker hit three of four shots from the arc and nine of 10 free-throws and finished with 34 points.
He also had five assists and five rebounds that night and was named the Eurocup Week 1 MVP.
LORD OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP RINGS
The labour dispute in the NBA ended not long after, and Parker returned to San Antonio to take on one of his greatest challenges as a sportsman.
With an ageing Spurs team, Parker heeded the call of his demanding, long-time coach Gregg Popovich and led the team in their bid for a fifth NBA crown.
Parker, the NBA Finals MVP of 2007, enjoyed arguably his best regular season as a Spur, averaging 20.5 points and 7.1 assists.
San Antonio had to have Parker play his best with Manu Ginobili going down for a long stretch of the season with an injury.
|The dissapointment from missing out on the gold medal in Lithuania was shortlived. No time to dwell on the loses when hundrends more games, with ASVEL, the Spurs and France again, await you in the remainder of the year |
His performances earned the 1.88m point guard a spot on the all-NBA second team, although many believed he merited a place on the first team.
In the Western Conference Play-offs, Parker has fueled that debate because he has continued to wreak havoc.
He poured in 21 points and handed out 6.5 assists per game in the Spurs' 4-0 sweep of the Utah Jazz, while in the Conference Semi-Finals against the Los Angeles Clippers and Chris Paul - the player who made first team All-NBA this season - Parker again stood out with averages of 17.3 points and 7.8 assists.
Now that Parker is in the Conference Finals, he's making it look easy against an Oklahoma City Thunder team that brushed aside the Los Angeles Lakers, 4-1.
He is averaging 26 points, seven assists and 5.5 rebounds in the first two games.
In Game 2 of the series this week, Parker was out of this world, scoring 34 points on 16 of 21 shooting.
Everyone sensed he was going to have a special night just one minute and 40 seconds into the contest, when he drilled a midrange pull-up jumper on a pick-and-roll.
"The first game I was a little too much in a hurry," he said.
"Tonight I took my time, especially on the pick-and-rolls when they doubled me."
He ended having the best shooting game by a true guard with at least 20 shots in the play-offs since former Detroit Pistons star Vinnie "The Microwave" Johnson hit 16 of 21 from the floor against Boston in 1985.
Never one to get too carried away by his exploits on the court, Parker said: "It was one of those nights. I felt in a good rhythm early on.
"I was making my outside shots and just trying to be aggressive."
Parker's performances are helping the Spurs make history.
They have now won 20 consecutive games.
They are the fourth team in NBA history to win at least 20 in a row and the only team to have its winning streak extend into the play-offs.
If Parker, who turned 30 on 17 May, continues to play as well as he has and leads the Spurs into the NBA Finals, he'll take on either the Celtics or Miami Heat.
Once San Antonio's campaign is over, Parker won't have much time to sit back and reflect on the year.
Short of rest, Parker will turn his attention back to the France national side and link up with his good friends at Les Bleus.
While he won't be well rested, the evidence suggests that Parker is going to have a special summer with his country.
On the one hand, he can't wait to rejoin his French teammates.
But on the other, Parker knows that he is six wins away from being an NBA champion and that's all that matters right now.