Gregg Popovich spent some time prior to tonight's game against the Los Angeles Clippers explaining to the gathered media how Tony Parker has developed since his younger days. As Spurs fans, you've heard the story before, but there's that subtle reminder of how far the point guard has come.
"When he came here he was 19 years old. We gave him the ball and expected him to do great things," Popovich said. "And he did. But he was in a special situation. We wanted to find out quickly if he was going to fold or couldn't handle pressure."
And it wasn't like he was becoming part of a rebuilding team. The Spurs were contending for titles when Parker was drafted in 2001, so they needed him to be something special. And Pop pushed him to be just that.
"We wanted to find out if he had no mental toughness or no physicality about him, how coachable he was, how good he wanted to be," Pop continued. "So I was really tough on him, really quickly. He took everything I could give him and he just got better and better and better."
But nobody has questioned the mental toughness of the guy on the other side of the ball tonight. Chris Paul has been as tough a player as the NBA has seen since he entered the league, and his duels — not to mention friendship — with Parker have been among the best 1-on-1 matchups in the association since its beginning.
Paul's skill set is among the most dynamic you'll see in a point guard, and for Pop, game-planning against him is a real pain the ... uh ... butt.
"He's a mean, nasty man, and he's a pain in the ass," Pop said with a smirk. "I don't know if there's anybody more competitive in the league than that little dude.
"They must've stole all his toys and everything when he was a kid. He's getting back at the world, because he's mad at everybody once he steps on the court."
Gregg Popovich, ladies and gentlemen. Enjoy the game.