San Antonio spurs point guard Tony Parker walked slowly toward the players' tunnel at American Airlines Center on Sunday night, stopping every so often to sign autographs or engage in casual conversations. "Hey, Namesake!" shouted Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Charlie Parker, pumping Tony's hand. They chatted for a few minutes and the coach left smiling. "He's quite a young man, isn't he?" the elder Parker said. This isn't a particularly good time for Franco-American relations but—mon Dieu!—how we like this young Frenchman.
What's not to like? Schoolboy-style backpack strapped to his slender shoulders, sly smile creasing his face, the 21-year-old Parker looked every bit the undergrad on his way to the quad to check out the coeds. But with the exception of his MVP teammate Tim Duncan, no player in this entertaining Western Conference final has played with more veteran sangfroid than the second-year Spur. Parker scored 29 points—second only to Duncan's 34—in a 96-83 Game 3 victory last Friday at Dallas, and then led San Antonio with 25 points in Sunday's 102-95 win, which gave the Spurs a 3-1 series lead.
"Gimme three," said San Antonio assistant P.J. Carlesimo, extending three fingers to Parker as the guard left the locker room after Sunday's game. Such is the elevated standard being set by Parker right now that Carlesimo didn't think he quite deserved five, perhaps because he missed 13 of his 22 shots, including four of five three-pointers. But then, Jason Kidd is sometimes a horrid shooter yet is still recognized as the NBA's premier quarterback.
There—that satisfies the unwritten rule that a Kidd reference must appear in every story about Parker, who for the last few months has been asked almost daily if he is motivated by the possibility that the Spurs will sign New Jersey's point guard, who becomes a free agent in July. Even the most genial athletes have their limits, and Parker appeared to have reached his on Sunday night. "I've answered the question 200 times," he said. "If you can't find it in a newspaper, I can't help you."
Should San Antonio finish off the Mavs and reach the Finals against the Nets, Parker will truly comprehend the limitlessness of journalistic redundancy. But while he may grow more weary of being asked about Kidd vs. the Kid, it's doubtful we'll grow tired of watching it.