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The tony parker World Tour 2007 has finally downshifted from fifth gear to fourth, but, oh, what a ride it has been. The first stop was Cleveland, where the point guard led the Spurs to their fourth NBA title in nine years and was named Finals MVP. Then there was a wedding in France you may have read about and an exchange of vows with a Hollywood star you may have heard of. That was followed by a honeymoon in Turks and Caicos, a trip to Spain to play for the French national team in the European Championships and a stopover in Paris to be inducted into the French Legion of Honor. "I didn't really have time," Parker says, "to enjoy my championship."
He did, however, have time to get a tattoo of a wedding ring on his left ring finger. Now Parker's focus has shifted to delivering another ring (the real deal, not the ink variety) to San Antonio--because the Spurs have not yet won back-to-back titles during their long run of success.
While San Antonio will be Tim Duncan's team for as long as he wears the silver-and-black, the defending champ's bid for a repeat depends on the continued development of Parker. On a team whose other core players are all in or past their primes, Parker, 25, still has significant upside.
He made strides last season, adding a midrange shot to prevent defenders from always going underneath on pick-and-rolls. And in the sweep of the Cavaliers, Parker played what coach Gregg Popovich considers his best ball ever, slicing to the rim for easy buckets and averaging 24.5 points on 56.8% shooting.
The knock on Parker's game has been his long-range jumper, but Popovich plans to let Parker shoot the deep ball more this season. "I think it's time to let him go ahead and prove [that he can make it]," says Popovich. "If he gets that down, he's going to be pretty tough to handle."--G.M.
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Spurs