The Spurs’ culture that has been developed over the past 20 years under the guidance of Gregg Popovich has resulted in one of the longest runs of success for one franchise in NBA history.
San Antonio’s longevity can be attributed to a number of factors, but the ability to get players to buy in to the overall system and trust that the role they’re being put in is for the betterment of the team and themselves is near the top. The Spurs have seen the torch passed from star to star, from David Robinson to Tim Duncan to Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to Kawhi Leonard, and even role player to role player.
This current incarnation of the Spurs has dealt with arguably the most adversity of any of Popovich’s teams, but has maintained pace for a top 4 seed in the West despite being without Kawhi Leonard for most of the season. LaMarcus Aldridge has carried the load for the Spurs in Leonard’s absence and, even excluding Leonard, the Spurs have gone 11 deep in terms of players that have given them solid production.
Tony Parker was once the Spurs’ top scorer and has been the starting point guard since he arrived in San Antonio in 2001, but on Sunday night Parker was moved to a bench role in favor of young point guard Dejounte Murray. Parker, who has played in and started 21 games this season, has averaged eight points and four assists per game, but Pop has decided it’s time for the next generation to take over at point and let Tony know.
Parker’s reaction wasn’t to be upset or frustrated, but was one of understanding and acceptance of his new role, illustrating once again how different the Spurs’ culture is compared to much of the rest of the league, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN.
Spurs point guard Tony Parker came off the bench Sunday against the Indiana Pacers for the first time in his career in the regular season, and the first time since the 2010 playoffs. Parker said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told him that “he thought it was time.” “I was like, ‘Oh, no problem,'” Parker said. “Just like Manu [Ginobili], just like Pau [Gasol], that day’s going to come. And if Pop sees something that is good for the team, I’ll try to do my best.”
There are not many former stars that are that willing to accept a move to a bench role. Injury issues over the past two years have probably helped prepare Parker for that inevitability, as has the fact that he’s seen so many others on the Spurs take that message in stride over his years in San Antonio. Even so, it’s fairly incredible that he’s so willing to cede his starting job to Murray and do so graciously.
Those that are willing to accept that role tend to be the ones that have success (and jobs) deep into their careers. The most notable recent example of this is Vince Carter, who seamlessly made the transition into being a veteran role player in Memphis and now Sacramento. Parker may not play into his 40s like Carter, but he’s ready to enter the next phase of his career in San Antonio, for however long that lasts.