A few weeks ago, the French sporting paper L'Equipe quoted Spurs guard Tony Parker as saying that the Spurs are a good team no longer playing for championship rings. After their first-round loss at the hands of the eighth-seeded Grizzlies, it wasn't a particularly controversial statement. Yet it was still pretty weird to hear from a player who needs to be confident to succeed, especially when his team was just one win away from having the best regular-season record in the NBA this season.
If you believe Parker, those comments may have seemed bizarre because they never happened. From Tim Griffin for Spurs Nation:
"I'm in a great situation. I love the Spurs. I love being a Spur. I re-signed four years," Parker said. "If I didn't think we could win a championship, I wouldn't have re-signed four years." [...]
"I don't think this current team will play for the title in the future," Parker told French reporters. "We are aging. We must be realistic. It was sort of our last chance this season."
Parker denied making those comments — even though there was video evidence of the remarks — and said they might have been blown out of proportion by the media.
Hmm, well, I think video evidence pretty much proves that it happened, but nice try, Tony. You almost got away with it.
Whatever the case, it makes sense that Parker would walk back these remarks, and not just because the Spurs pay him a hefty salary. As the Mavericks have shown throughout this postseason, a team once believed to be past its prime can add some secondary pieces, adjust their strategy, and get a little luck to come within two wins of winning a championship. Tim Duncan is aging, Manu Ginobili is a walking injury risk, and Parker no longer has Eva Longoria at his side, but the Spurs are really not that far away. If Tiago Splitter develops into a quality rebounder and post defender and they add some wing help, the Spurs should be right back in the thick of things next season.
The Spurs may not have been equipped to handle Playoff Basketball this season, so Parker's comments still hold some water. However, if the Mavericks have shown anything this season, it's that assumptions about who's best equipped to handle a long playoff run can be proven wrong very quickly. Getting back to the Finals may be as simple as getting a few breaks and making a few minor personnel moves.