- Ric Bucher, NBA Reporter, ESPN The Magazine Senior Writer
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SAN ANTONIO -- Speedy Claxton stepped between Tony Parker and Jason Kidd in their battle over who the Spurs' point guard should be next season and essentially clocked them both. Not bad for someone about to hawk his services on the free-agent market.
After becoming a first-time dad on Father's Day.
Talk about timing.
Claxton, injured a good part of the regular season and overlooked for most of the playoffs, took over the Spurs' rudder when Parker faltered in Game 6 and guided them home to their second championship. Three turnovers and three missed shots by Parker to start the third quarter put the Spurs down by 10 points when coach Gregg Popovich went to Claxton. Unlike Game 4, when Speedy pulled San Antonio back within striking distance only to watch Parker play the final eight minutes and the Spurs lose, Claxton never left the floor Sunday night.
Result: 19-0 fourth-quarter run, 88-77 win, NBA title. And a big payday awaiting Claxton, who finished with 13 points, four assists and a blocked shot in 23 minutes.
"It's tough when you just hear about Tony and Jason," Claxton said, "I was just trying to be seen. And I think I play better in bigger games."
The bigger they got, the better he played. Parker roared into the series and knocked down timely shots in two of the first three games, but all that ended when the Nets put Kerry Kittles on him.
"We felt as though we'd keep an advantage if we kept Parker under control," Kittles said. "He didn't really hurt us. Then they bring a guy off the bench who isn't known to make outside shots and I don't know if Speedy missed. With Tony out of the game, we concentrated on Duncan, but every time we helped, Speedy hurt us. He played really well."
Spurs general manager R.C. Buford declined to discuss Claxton's future other than to say, "Our hope is to keep him." Or at least sign him. Kidd is at the top of San Antonio's free-agent list and, as Speedy says, "If he comes, I know I won't be back here." No, but he'd still wield considerable value in a sign-and-trade. The Wizards at one time offered Brendan Haywood for him this season, but now that might not be enough.
"They were playing erratic and Speedy kind of controlled the tempo and took over and ran the team," Nets guard Lucious Harris said.
A lot of teams could use someone like that -- Denver, Boston, Indiana, for starters. Dain Ervin, a friend of Claxton's since kindergarten, said Speedy is a very loyal person, making San Antonio his first choice. But having tasted the chance to prove what he can do, Claxton wouldn't mind more opportunity.
"I don't think that people know my whole game," he said. "I have to get minutes for people to know what I can do. A starting role, that's my goal."
If Kidd doesn't join the Spurs -- and considering what Claxton did to win them a ring -- don't rule out that possibility in San Antonio.
Jackson's wild ride
Stephen Jackson turned the ball over twice and hit the side of the backboard with his only shot, forcing Popovich to pull him three minutes into the game. Jackson then did his usual pouting routine, walking to the baseline and sitting far away from his teammates. When assistant coach Mike Brown tried to talk to him, Jackson waved him away. When teammate Malik Rose tried to talk to him, Jackson snapped back a response that prompted Rose to roll his eyes and shake his head.
All was forgiven by the end of the night, as Jackson compensated for his six turnovers by burying three of four 3-pointers down the stretch to finish with 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting.
"One thing about Jack, it doesn't matter whether he's in the feast mode or the famine mode," Popovich said. "At some point, it's going to change."
Spurs guard Steve Kerr, another free agent who's expected to retire, didn't rule out playing another season. "I would consider it," he said. "There's a slight chance." Several teams, including the Spurs, Blazers and Lakers, have talked to him about being an assistant coach and he's expected to draw interest as a TV analyst as well. "I'm going to consider everything," he said. ... Word out of Los Angeles is that Clippers owner Donald Sterling cleared $40 million this season, raising a question in his head why anyone would call him an inept owner or suggest he sell the team. It's a fair question. In any case, Sterling isn't looking to spend his profit on a head coach. Rumor has it, Larry Brown sent a pricey list of demands and Sterling never even responded to it. Mike Dunleavy is expected to wait to take the job in Atlanta once the ownership transaction is completed for the same reason. Now there's a chance that interim coach Dennis Johnson could be brought back. ... The Nets' Harris on Kidd returning to the Nets: "He said all along it would be a no-brainer if he won a championship to stay in New Jersey. I'm sure now he'll consider everything and do what's best for he and his family."
Who'll be the Spurs' point guard next season? Tony Parker? Jason Kidd? Try Speedy Claxton.