The two refuse to
let their hectic work schedules undermine their relationship. "We never go
more than two weeks without seeing each other during the season, no matter
what," he says. But with Parker's intractable NBA commitment, "I'm
always on his schedule," Longoria says. "Last year I didn't take a
movie during the summer because I wanted to spend every minute I could with
him." Last July, when Parker was in France preparing for the world
championships with the French national team, Longoria flew in from L.A. for a
visit that lasted less than 24 hours. "He had a day off, and I missed
him," she says. "We had dinner, and I left the next day."
"Yes, but it
was worth it, no?" Parker says suggestively, suddenly sounding a bit like
Pep� Le Pew.
PARKER PLANNED TO
POP THE QUESTION IN Paris last October, when the Spurs opened training camp
there. But just before the team left Texas, rumors flew that the couple had
split. Longoria's publicist issued a statement saying that they were going
through "a very difficult time," but it did not directly address the
rumors. In the end Longoria made the trip to Paris, and though the couple
renewed their commitment to each other, Parker did not propose.
A month later he
sneaked off to L.A. following a game in Utah. When Longoria returned home after
a long day on the set, her place was littered with rose petals and alight with
candles. Parker did the whole one-knee thing, the exclamation point being a
five-carat engagement ring. Now the wedding plans are in high gear, with the
superstitious Parker having picked 7/7/7 as the date. The ceremony, which will
be held in a castle outside of Paris, is the subject of breathless reports, and
Longoria allows that "there is tremendous pressure to find the most
gorgeous dress of the century." But Parker is sanguine amid the mounting
frenzy. "She does everything," he says. "I am in charge of the food
and the music, and that's it."
On top of wedding
preparations they are also building a house together in San Antonio. Framing
has already begun on their private playground, a 23-acre spread that will have
an indoor basketball court, beach-volleyball and tennis courts, and a mini
water park around a large pool. About the only goody the house is missing is a
recording studio to nurse Parker's musical ambitions. In March, Parker's debut
album, Balance-Toi (Bounce), was released in France. The title cut, a club
banger with a propulsive beat and a racy video featuring tarted-up cheerleaders
and Longoria in a cameo, reached No. 1 on France's new-music charts. "This
is for real," Parker says of his burgeoning rap career. "I'm already
working on my second album."
Boris Diaw, the
French forward of the Suns, confirms that his boyhood friend's interest is
genuine. "This has nothing to do with trying to keep up with Eva," Diaw
says. "Tony has talked about doing an album for as long as I've known
him." But then, it's easy to attribute any change in Parker to Longoria,
much to the fear of Spurs supporters. In the way that hockey fans in Edmonton
still blame Janet Jones's acting ambitions for the trade that sent Wayne
Gretzky to L.A., San Antonians fear that Longoria will whisk Parker away. In
fact, Longoria loves paparazzi-free San Antonio, and almost all of her family
has moved to the area in recent years.
It is Parker who
frets about the future. Both he and Longoria are committed to their current
employers through 2011. "We need to live full time in the same city,"
says Parker, "so naturally my decision [about where to sign when his
contract expires] is going to be affected by Eva and her career."
Ever mindful of
the power of headlines, Longoria leans in and whispers, "Are you sure you
want to say that? You don't want Pop to get mad."
Parker has reason
not to antagonize his curmudgeonly coach, because in his sixth season he has
finally earned Popovich's trust. Though Parker became a starter just five games
into his rookie year, during the 2003 playoffs talk was rampant that the Spurs
were going to replace him with free agent Jason Kidd. (The pining for Kidd
stopped long ago.) "He's becoming a coach on the floor," Popovich now
says of Parker. "There are times when I stand up to make a call, and he
shakes me off. When that happens, I just turn around and go back to the bench.
I want him to have that kind of confidence."
Last season was
crucial to Parker's development. At the start of the year he began working with
a shooting coach to refine his mechanics, and combining a more consistent
jumper with his fearless slashes to the basket and teardrops made him almost
impossible to stop. With Duncan and ace swingman Manu Gin�bili slowed most of
the season by injuries, Parker led the Spurs to a franchise-record 63
victories, averaging a career-high 18.9 points and 5.8 assists while shooting
54.8% from the field.