Jun 4, 2013, 6:00 PM EST
When naming the NBA’s toughest players, Tony Parker probably doesn’t crack the list. But when naming players with question marks about their toughness, Parker certainly doesn’t make that list, either.
For player as skilled as Parker, that’s a big deal. He doesn’t have to be Charles Oakley to succeed. He just must be tough enough to allow his talent to shine, and he’s obviously done that.
But it wasn’t always clear he could. Billy Witz of The New York Times:
When Gregg Popovich, the coach of the San Antonio Spurs, first set eyes on Tony Parker, at a predraft camp in Chicago in 2001, he did not need long to reach an assessment.
Parker, then a 19-year-old from France, had generated some buzz with a strong performance against a team of American high school all-stars. He intrigued the Spurs, who had the last pick of the first round. But Popovich’s appraisal after the workout was typically blunt: Parker was too soft.
When R. C. Buford, then the assistant general manager, got more looks at Parker, who had just arrived off a plane from Paris for that initial workout, he persuaded Popovich to take another look. So the Spurs set up a workout in San Antonio. Popovich brought in three players he described with a chuckle as thugs and stationed them for 45 minutes with Parker on the low block. The workout had little to do with playing point guard, scoring guard or basketball, really.
“They just wanted to see what I was made of,” Parker said. “I didn’t even realize it was for that. I was just trying to do my best. I was happy to do a workout for an N.B.A. team.”
This story shows one reason the Spurs have been so successful. Their coach and general manager spoke about their disagreement, and Popovich remained open-minded. Certainly, other coaches might not have been willing to give Parker a true second look.
Popovich and the Spurs are certainly glad he did, though.
- George Karl: Knicks could use a strong point guard next to Carmelo Anthony 8
- Ray Allen announces he will not play this season 13
- Pelicans’ Anthony Davis a gametime decision Wednesday vs. Pistons 1
- Derek Fisher questions ‘character and integrity’ of players after Knicks lose to Kings by 38 points 29
- Five Things We Learned in NBA Tuesday: The Hawks clinched playoff spot in front of Josh Smith 6
- Nuggets need to decide direction, then hire coach 18
- Report: Russell Westbrook ‘likely’ to return to Thunder lineup Wednesday, will wear protective mask 13
- Nuggets have fired head coach Brian Shaw 30