Tony Parker, a month after leaving the San Antonio Spurs as a free agent to join the Charlotte Hornets, has penned a farewell to San Antonio, sending thanks to Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich and others in a 2,900-word essay on The Players’ Tribune website.
Parker was benched in January for the first time since 2010, giving way to second-year guard Dejounte Murray.
In the essay, titled “Thank you, San Antonio,” Parker reveals it was his decision to take a place on the bench and kick off a new era at point guard for the Spurs.
“I came up to Pop one day, and I told him my thoughts: It was time for Dejounte to take over full-time as our starting point guard,” Parker wrote. “I didn’t want it to be a dramatic thing, or this ego thing, or one of these big media things, but I just wanted to get it out in the open — for the good of Dejounte’s development, and for the good of the team. Pop agreed, and thanked me. And then I went and had the same conversation with Dejounte. He was grateful.”
The account offers a new lens into a behind-the-scenes moment of a changing-of-the-guard for the Spurs and stands in contrast to what Popovich and Parker, who had played all 17 of his seasons with the Spurs, said at the time — that the legendary coach had approached Parker and told him he “thought it was time” to go with Murray.
In the preceding months, Parker had spent much of the time out or working his way back into shape after tearing his quadriceps tendon last May.
“Was it bittersweet? You know what, I’m not trying to seem like a robot here or anything, but it really wasn’t,” Parker wrote in The Players’ Tribune piece. “It’s a discipline thing, I think. That’s just kind of the way that I was raised, and how I’ve grown up as a player — to always stay moving forward. Of course don’t get me wrong: every now and then, you know, Manu and Timmy and I, we’ll get together for dinner … and when this happens, for sure, then it’s time for a little bit of nostalgia. You can’t help it — and we have this great time, sharing all these great memories back and forth. But when it’s in-season? And I’m in work mode? When you’re in work mode in this league, I think, you have to be pretty disciplined: about letting the present stay the present, and the past stay the past.
“And so that’s how I tried to keep that moment. I wanted Dejounte to know that he’d earned it — but also that what the decision came down to, in the end, was the exact same thing that it would always come down to during his time in San Antonio: the good of the Spurs.”
Parker also called Duncan the hallmark and root of “Spurs Culture.”.
“And I tell people, always, that this wasn’t magic,” Parker wrote. “I tell them that we had an elite coaching staff, an elite training staff, sure. I tell them that we obviously had a one-of-a-kind head coach in Pop. But if you want to know the thing that set us apart the most in these situations? It’s Timmy, man. It really was Timmy. Simple as that.”
Parker agreed to a two-year, $10 million deal with the Hornets last month. The Spurs wanted Parker back in a mentorship role, but he will take on a significant role with the Hornets behind guard Kemba Walker.
Parker, 36, was selected by the Spurs 28th overall in the 2001 NBA draft and has spent his entire professional career in San Antonio. He won four titles with the Spurs (2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014) and was the 2007 NBA Finals MVP.
“Here’s the thing, though, with all those experiences, both the ‘good’ ones and the ‘bad’ ones,” Parker wrote, in highlighting some of his memories of working with Popovich. “They all made me a better player — and they all made me a better person. And that’s just Pop, man. That’s what makes him so special. It’s no B.S. when he’s giving you these words of encouragement … and it’s no B.S. when he’s giving you these words of criticism.
“When he’s starting you, when he’s benching you, when he’s handing you the keys to the offense, or even when he’s shopping the keys around in free agency to someone else … man, you’re still getting the same Pop, operating on the same principle, every time. And that principle is: anything that happens on his watch, it happens for one reason and one reason only. The good of the Spurs.”