Shortly after the San Antonio Spurs were eliminated by the miracle Grizzlies, Tony Parker told a French newspaper that the Spurs “can no longer say that we’re playing for a championship,” apparently thinking that the team has no French-speaking employees, translation services or Internet connections that would allow them to figure out what he said. He was wrong, and subsequently recanted his comments, but not before getting a little scare from the men upstairs.
Tony Parker might be right. The Spurs’ last chance to win a title in the Tim Duncan era might have come this past season when they won the West and flamed out in the first round against Memphis. But as he learned, he is not supposed to tell reporters back home in France, “(the Spurs) can no longer say we’re playing for a championship.” Here was the Spurs’ reaction: Oh, really? OK, Tony, how’d you like to go play in Sacramento? Or, how does Portland sound?
Scared to death of being banished to the ends of the earth, Parker backed off his comments. Satisfied that their point guard was back with the program, the Spurs then turned around on draft night and traded his backup, George Hill, to the Pacers. You would have thought that they had moved Duncan in his prime. General manager R.C. Buford called it “one of the most difficult nights in Spurs history since we’ve been here.” In fact, it wasn’t. As much as they liked Hill’s work ethic, they had no intention of meeting his salary demands. So for the first time in the Gregg Popovich era, they traded up in a draft, obtaining San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard. He fell to No. 15 because he can’t shoot, but he’s exactly the kind of athlete the Spurs have been lacking.
That’s just awesome. We make Evil Empire jokes about the Spurs all the time, but this is a serious Darth Vader “I find your lack of faith disturbing” move by the Spurs. Tony Parker doesn’t think the Spurs can win titles? Fine, send him to the Kings or Trail Blazers, where he won’t be able to find a baguette with a sufficiently holey crumb structure no matter where he shops. That’ll teach ‘em.
Plus, as usual, it was a canny move by the Spurs. Not only did Tony Parker rumors allow the value of their real trade piece, George Hill, to remain high, it’ll also scare Parker in to not complaining and playing as hard as he can. It’s similar to when the Red Sox used to shop Manny Ramirez, just to show him that they were the only team who’d put up with his antics, which would somehow result in him playing hard. Before the draft, Tony was just worried he’d end up on a bad team, which is apparently the scariest thing in the world to him. Now, he’s happy to be in San Antonio, and a happy player always performs better.
Besides, if Parker starts slacking off, the Spurs will just fake-trade him to all the worst teams in the league, which will straighten him out again. It worked once, why not again?
(via Blazer’s Edge)