For years the San Antonio Spurs were known as Tim Duncan's team. Everything went through Duncan, the offense and defense along with laying down the foundation of the Spurs' philosophy of treating every player on the roster the same. He was treated and coached the same way the last guy on the bench was. The team was a slow paced team, looking to drain the shot clock as much as possible while getting a high percentage shot with the scale tipped to a defensive mindset.
The Spurs still have the same philosophy of sportsmanship and discipline, but the face of the franchise has now shifted from Duncan to point guard Tony Parker.
The team is now a fast paced oriented squad who's looking to get a high percentage shot as quick as possible while still looking to stop their opponents on the defensive end. The team is now playing a similar style of the old Phoenix Suns running teams except with a more smarter balance to it. This is clearly Parker's imprint on the team, a style he's known to favor his whole career. If you need any more proof about Parker's newfound leadership, he'll tell you himself. In an interview with USA Today, Parker comments that Gregg Popovich, head coach of the team, paid Parker a visit in the offseason and gave him the keys to the Spurs' kingdom.
"He just told me 'Timmy (Duncan) and Manu (Ginobili) are getting older, and it's your turn now. You have to carry the team night in, night out. You have to play good every night. You have to be consistent"
Parker showed some spurts last season where he was considered the teams' best player. This started against the Oklahoma City Thunder last season where Russell Westbrook seemed to light a fire in Parker by making a few comments during game play and Parker kept that play up until the Spurs met the Thunder in the playoffs. The Spurs were defeated by the Thunder and Parker seemed to have lost his confidence that series. This season is a different story, especially after Parker's comments about Pop handing Tony the team. Pop's speech to Parker wasn't just about giving him the leadership role on the team, but also gave him some great advice which seems that Tony hasn't forgotten so far this season.
"He said 'Good players have a great season one year. But great players have great seasons more than once.'
Parker has kept his stats consistent from game to game this season, putting up an impressive MVP-like performance of 20.8ppg with 53% shooting and dishing out 7.6apg in 32.9mpg while leading San Antonio to a league best 43-12 record. Parker seems determined to be the example the Spurs desperately need in this new era in basketball. He's the new "Tim Duncan" where everything starts with him and Spurs fans hope he can keep this play up in the playoffs, the season that really matters to the fan base. If you're a Spurs fan, you'll love Parker's reaction to Pop's confidence in him.
"The belief that he has in me shows a lot of respect and makes me want to go out there and play hard every night.....I feel like now is my time to show what I can do and carry the team."
As good as Parker played last season, he didn't have the reigns of the team that everyone thought he did, even after his 2007 NBA Finals MVP performance. Parker is now primed to show the league what his San Antonio Spurs can do in the postseason. Duncan and Manu Ginobili are now above average role players on the team with Parker being the main focal point, so look for teams to focus their attention on the 30 year old French point guard more than ever. San Antonio fans should feel confident because it seems Parker is now welcoming the challenge to show the world what he's got to offer against the league's best players and their coach's best schemes.