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Not long ago, Tony Parker had assumed the top role on the San Antonio Spurs as Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili slid out of their primes and Kawhi Leonard continued to develop.
When the Spurs won the 2013-2014 championship, Parker was the team’s leading scorer in the regular season and postseason.
Things have changed.
The Spurs are now LaMarcus Aldridge and Leonard’s team while Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili essentially function as high-quality role players.
While Aldridge and Leonard are averaging a combined 43 points on 29 shots a game in the playoffs, Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili are averaging a combined 21 points on 17 shots a game.
On Wednesday, Parker was asked about how the Spurs have made Aldridge their go-to scorer and whether it affects other players. Parker gave a frank answer about how roles evolve and how it’s important to stay focused (via Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express News):
You always have that discussion, because then the other guys are not in rhythm. But hey, LaMarcus has been playing unbelievable. If he keeps playing like that, it’s our job, even if we get three shots, four shots, we have to make them. That’s a tough life. For me, I used to get 15 or 20 shots, so I got time to get a rhythm. When you get four shots, you have to make them. That’s my job now. That’s my life now. I have to make those shots. I know I’m going to get three or four and then I’m not going to see it again for 10 minutes. It’s like that. I’m just going to have to make them.
Parker isn’t hiding much here. He’s averaging almost five fewer shots a game this postseason than last year, a dramatic drop-off undoubtedly tied to the presence of Aldridge and the emergence of Leonard. Parker clearly wouldn’t mind getting more shots in the offense.
However, this also isn’t a complaint by Parker. He’s not demanding more shots; rather, he’s accepting he’ll get fewer shots, and that the Spurs’ offense can only be potent if he takes advantage of the looks he gets. If Parker isn’t hitting his shots, teams can bog down on Aldridge and Leonard, and the whole system can collapse.
Attitudes like this are partially why the Spurs have been so good for so long – players accept their roles, however large or small, with little complaint.