|ESPN.com: NBA Playoffs 2014||[Print without images]|
SAN ANTONIO -- Tony Parker and Tim Duncan have shared an awful lot of success teamed on the San Antonio Spurs. They've led them to 13 straight 50-win seasons, five straight Southwest Division titles and three NBA titles since Parker entered the league. However, their relationship did not start off on such spectacular terms.
"He didn't talk to me for a whole year," Parker said after practice Monday, reflecting on his rookie season in 2001-02 when it wasn't just a French-English language barrier that wedged a gap between the two. "It was kind of weird coming from France and you have your superstar player that doesn't talk to you as a point guard, it's kind of tough, you know? Because you're supposed to talk to everybody.
"But as we grew together in the league and he trusted me more, I can really say it's a special relationship because I feel close to him on the court. But even off the court, we've both been through a lot of stuff throughout our career so I think it got us closer."
|Tim Duncan and Tony Parker's chemistry is great now, but it took a bit for the two stars to click.|
They were certainly on the same page in Sunday's 90-85 win over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of their first round series. Duncan scored a game-high 27 points to go with seven rebounds. Parker was right behind him with 21 points and six assists. In a game where San Antonio finished well below its 105.4 points per game average from the regular season and shot just 43.7 percent as a team, Duncan and Parker both exceeded their regular season scoring averages while both shooting better than 50 percent from the field.
Parker said that he finally felt comfortable voicing his opinion to Duncan following their first championship together in 2003 and still fondly remembers the first conversation they had.
"I was very happy," Parker said. "I remember I was very happy that he finally talked to me. I was like, 'Maybe I can stay in this team.' Because if Timmy doesn't talk to you, it would be tough to stay with the Spurs. Because he's the franchise. It would be tough."
Of course, Parker has become just as vital to the Spurs' organization over the years, winning Finals MVP in 2007 while finishing in the top 10 in the voting for league MVP four times.
"I think you had to earn his respect, I guess," Parker said. "That's fair, when you're 19. That's how I felt, that I had to earn the respect of my teammates and my coaches. Especially Coach Pop (Gregg Popovich). For the first 3-4 years, it was like war with him."
It's much more peaceful times in the Alamo City and the interpersonal connections of the entire Spurs team were on display on Monday with Manu Ginobili reporting to practice after his wife gave birth to their third child, a baby boy named Luca, on Monday morning.
"He went in [the hospital] this morning and a half an hour later, he's back at practice," Popovich said. "Pretty efficient guy."
Ginobili took to Twitter to announce the birth of his son.
Thrilled to announce that today at 7.47am, Luca, our 3rd boy was born. Wifey and the baby are both doing great. #SuperHappyDad- Manu Ginobili (@manuginobili) April 21, 2014
Parker admitted he felt "a little bit" like an uncle after hearing the news of Ginobili's family growing.
The Spurs will take that family atmosphere into Game 2 against an entirely familiar opponent in the Mavs. It is the sixth time the two teams have played each other in the postseason in the last 14 years.
As much as the Spurs and Mavericks know each others' tendencies, Dallas threw San Antonio for a loop in Game 1 by switching defenders on every pick-and-roll scenario.
"I think early in the game, even though Tony was successful attacking the bigs, we kind of stopped," said Ginobili. "And I think that's what they wanted us to do. We became more predictable. So I think even if they switch, we just got to keep moving, penetrating, pitching and creating. I think that's going to be important for us."
The scheme seemed to throw the Spurs out of rhythm, as San Antonio shot just 3-for-17 on 3-pointers as a team (17.6 percent).
"If they change things up, then we go back to Spurs basketball and ball movement and our shooters will make 3s," Parker said. "They made 3s all season long, so I have confidence they'll keep shooting."
The Spurs eventually found success against Dallas' defense, outscoring the Mavs 25-20 in the fourth quarter while shooting 52.9 percent as a team, but they relied heavily on their starters to close things out. As a result, their bench production took a dip.
After leading the league in bench scoring with a 45.1 points per game average during the regular season, the Spurs were barely able to muster half that total Sunday, with their reserves combining for 23 points.
"It doesn't matter who scores," Ginobili said. "We really don't care much about if we score 50 points off the bench or not. We just want to score more points than them. So if it's the starters, good. If it's the bench, whatever. We just got to play better."
They can only hope for the kind of improvement on the court that Parker and Duncan showed in their communication skills.