A couple of weeks ago, former Spurs point guard Tony Parker (that will never sound right) mentioned in an interview with Chinese site HUPU that “Yes, I will retire as a Spurs player.” Not “might”: WILL. When elaborating further:
Do you still have the possibility to return to the Spurs?
I will never say impossible. Now I have signed a two-year contract with the Hornets, and no one will know about the future.
Hopefully it’s not impossible, because despite often being considered in the lesser of the Spurs Big 3 for various reasons (some justified, some not), there would be something extremely nostalgic and satisfying about bringing Parker back for one more season, even if it’s an honorary one.
As everyone knows, Parker spent 17 seasons with the team that drafted him and far exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations. First seen as merely a young, spry replacement to Avery Johnson (undersized and all), that didn’t stop Parker from being more than just a glorified version of his predecessor. It only took him just five games to snatch the starting point guard’s spot from Antonio Daniels, and he held onto it for 16 seasons while racking up four championships, six All-Star appearances, four All-NBA appearances, and even some MVP votes on his way to becoming the Spurs’ greatest point guard of all time.
That all changed at the climax of his 16th season when he suffered a ruptured quad in the 2017 playoffs against the Houston Rockets. Despite putting in massive efforts to get back ASAP and exceeding expectations (again) with a November 27 return — about half the time it takes many athletes to recover from such devastating injuries — Parker eventually hit the recovery wall after the initial adrenaline rush of his return and never quite got back to 100%. Gregg Popovich made the ultimate decision that the starting point guard was now Dejounte Murray, and while it was a decision Parker wholeheartedly agreed with and even encouraged, it all but meant the end of consistent playing time for him in San Antonio.
With a stated goal of wanting to play in the NBA for 20 seasons, which means he still has three more years to go, he understandably wasn’t ready to accept a third-string/mentor role for that long. Feeling he had more to give, he signed a 2-year, $10 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets and will be the backup to Kemba Walker: still not what he’s used to, but more of a role than he would have had here.
That brings us back to the statement above. Parker’s contract with Charlotte only takes us through season numbers 18 and 19 for him. That leaves the grand finale still wide open for anyone who will take him. It could very well mean that Parker would be willing to come back to the Spurs and take on that third-string/mentor role so that he can retire with the team that drafted him. He wouldn’t be the first star to do that — and if all else fails there’s always the route of signing an “honorary” contract that only lasts a day or so just it can be the last contract he signed (as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett recently did — although that doesn’t seem very Spursy).
If Parker does end up wanting to return for one more go in what will presumably be the 2020-21 season, then I say we welcome him back with open arms. His return would not only be a feel-good story, but also possibly a chance to get him into the coaching game via a player-coach role.
Coincidentally or not, that season aligns perfectly with when many believe of us believe we should start watching Pop’s contract (i.e. after the Olympics), and if Parker wants a future role with the Spurs it would be a perfect way to get his foot in the door and test his coaching acumen (a future career he has often pondered). There are plenty of members of the Pop coaching tree, but it still wouldn’t hurt to have the help of one of the best and brightest players who has shown a good knack for teaching other players on the sideline.
So what do you think, Pounders? Would you welcome back the only member of the Big 3 that is still standing, and see Parker end his career as a Spur?