Updated: May 8, 2012, 2:14 AM ET

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French Evolution

By Ric Bucher
ESPN The Magazine

Gregg Popovich saw how Tony Parker, his starting point guard, led Team France last summer to its best EuroBasket finish in 60 years and had only one question: Why doesn't he play that way for us?

Parker's answer: All you had to do was ask. That Pop did ask may be the biggest reason the Spurs are title contenders (again), even though 36-year-old Tim Duncan is dragging his left leg, Manu Ginobili has missed nearly half the season and five new faces are in the rotation.

Parker has long been part of the Spurs' Big Three, with Duncan and Ginobili, but he's tended to carry himself like the slight, sensitive 19-year-old who arrived 10 years ago. Popovich treated him accordingly, perhaps thinking it was simply Parker's nature to defer -- until he saw that refuse-to-lose drive last summer.

"With the national team, it's always been my team," Parker says. "I just tried to fit in here. Pop told me, 'This year, you need to lead, and Timmy and Manu will follow.' Only Pop could say that. I felt it was time too, but to me, it's always been Timmy's team."

Parker's role in earning France a EuroBasket silver medal irked Popovich, given Parker's tepid playoff showing less than five months earlier, when the top-seeded Spurs were upset by the eighth-seeded Grizzlies. Popovich's staff spliced together clips showing Parker leading all EuroBasket scorers with big shots and relentless defense and contrasted them with Memphis series lowlights, in which opposing point guard Mike Conley kept blowing by him and stripping him of the ball. "It gave me great fodder," Popovich says.

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If Not Deron Williams, Then Who?

By Tim MacMahon
ESPN Dallas

DALLAS -- When the Mavs opted not to offer Tyson Chandler and Co. long-term deals, this summer's free-agency crop was expected to be headlined by a few superstars.

The landscape quickly changed when Chris Paul exercised his player option for next season after being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. It changed for the worse again when Dwight Howard surprisingly committed not to opt out of the final season of his contract with the Orlando Magic just before the trade deadline.

That leaves Deron Williams as the lone big fish. What happens if the Mavs don't persuade the guard, a native of The Colony, to come home?

"You've got to have your A, B, C, D and E and so on, but you also understand that this is a global plate tectonic," president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. "Things are moving and situations are fluid. You go into it with eyes wide open and hopefully you can come out of it with what you want."

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