Popovich's plan: Patch things up with Parker
Gregg Popovich is still upset about his prodigy point guard's opposition to adding Jason Kidd.
From the Olympic qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico, where he's serving as an assistant coach with Team USA, Gregg Popovich plans to accompany head coach Larry Brown to scout the European Championships in September. That tournament is in Sweden, where Popovich will inevitably bump into a French point guard named Tony Parker.
"I'm going to totally ignore him," he said.
No one denies that there could be some tensions to ease when the San Antonio Spurs commence the defense of their second championship in a five-year span. L'Affaire Parker saw the 21-year-old voice loud opposition to the Spurs' free-agent pursuit of Jason Kidd after publicly supporting it on many previous occasions. Popovich then scolded Parker, privately and publicly. This figures to linger as a story with the Spurs until the season starts, when Parker can prove through his play that there is no carryover effect.
Parker's change of heart still rankles Popovich, who attributes the comments to bad advice Parker received from two of his confidantes. "We talked after the Finals and he was still fine with it," said Popovich, who maintains that the Spurs had made their Kidd interest clear to Parker well in advance, with no protest from the incumbent floor leader.
"It changed maybe two days before Jason's visit," Popovich continued. "As somebody who cares about him the way I do, and having tried to mentor him for his two years in the league, it was just disappointing to me that he didn't say, 'Hey, Pop, this is how I really feel.' "
After a good start to the NBA Finals, Parker faded badly and wound up spending long stretches of the Spurs' clinching Game 6 victory on the bench. It's not known if the mounting speculation about San Antonio's forthcoming attempts to sign Kidd were a factor in the fade, but Parker was scolded at one point during the Finals by soon-to-retire Spurs center David Robinson. "I told him, 'You look like you're not having any fun out there,' " Robinson shared during the series.
Knowing Popovich, his real plan undoubtedly calls for clear-the-air talks with Parker as soon as possible, because he doesn't want any distaste to linger and because the Parker plans Popovich did reveal call for Parker to "take more control of the team, kind of like Avery Johnson used to do for me." Although it's difficult to envision the Spurs operating as such, since Popovich generally runs all things non-Duncan with such a firm hand, the coach says that it's time, in Parker's third season, to give him "a little bit of room."
"It's not about being angry at Tony, or 'I'm going to make him really pay the price,' or any of that silly stuff," Popovich said. "... It'll be another lesson in his maturation process. I'm almost, in a philosophical sense, happy to have this happen. He's going to learn a big lesson from it. But we've had too much wine and bread together to be (at odds). We'll always be good."
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