The only NBA starters younger than Tony Parker, who turns 21 in two days, are Chicago’s Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry and Phoenix’s Amare Stoudemire.
Of course, the Spurs don’t believe in coddling their kids, so Parker has been under the gun as long as the other three have been in the league.
Overmatched against Stephon Marbury of Phoenix in the first round, Parker rallied, after which Coach Gregg Popovich noted:
“We told him no more babying. I don’t care that you’re 20. Nobody cares that you’re a little bit angry or a little bit embarrassed that you played badly and it’s not going your way. Nobody cares. I don’t care. The crowd doesn’t care. There’s not one person on the planet who cares.”
Before Game 5 of this series, Popovich said, “We’re a much better team when Tony Parker is aggressive and scores. He hasn’t done that very much in either series, very honestly, and it’s important for us and we’ve talked to him about it and he understands it and he’s trying to do the best he can.”
Parker snapped back with 21 points.
“Tony’s a big part of what we do,” David Robinson said. “Without Tony, it changes the pace of the game. We need him. We need him to be active. We need him to be confident.
“I tell him all the time he’s one of the best point guards in the league.... A lot of this is just growing up, growing up in the playoffs. You have to figure it out. I think he’s starting to figure it out. He did against Stephon Marbury. This [Game 5] was a big-time comeback from him.”
Meanwhile, insiders say the Spurs are targeting New Jersey’s Jason Kidd in free agency.
Aside from that, Parker shouldn’t have a care in the world.
They need you, too, big guy: Popovich before Game 5, asked if they needed more production from Robinson, who had four points and seven rebounds in Games 3 and 4 combined:
“That would be nice.”
Robinson had six points and seven rebounds in Game 5.
The bench contest hasn’t been much of a contest. Any time Spur reserves Manu Ginobili, Speedy Claxton and Malik Rose make shots, the Lakers are in trouble.
However, with Slava Medvedenko scoring 13 points and making five of his six shots, the Laker bench outscored the Spur reserves for the first time, 22-18, in Game 5.
For the series, however, the Spur bench leads, 165-73.
Long before Robert Horry began knocking down big shots for the Lakers, he made one against the Spurs they still haven’t forgotten.
In 1995, as a Houston Rocket, Horry made a three-pointer that won the opener of the West finals in San Antonio. The No. 6-seeded Rockets proceeded to upset the No. 1-seeded Spurs in six games.
Robinson, asked what would have happened had Horry’s shot at the end of Game 5 gone in:
“That would have messed up my day.”