San Antonio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Four

Gregg Popovich once deemed Tony Parker too soft to draft


When naming the NBA’s toughest players, Tony Parker probably doesn’t crack the list. But when naming players with question marks about their toughness, Parker certainly doesn’t make that list, either.

For player as skilled as Parker, that’s a big deal. He doesn’t have to be Charles Oakley to succeed. He just must be tough enough to allow his talent to shine, and he’s obviously done that.

But it wasn’t always clear he could. Billy Witz of The New York Times:

When Gregg Popovich, the coach of the San Antonio Spurs, first set eyes on Tony Parker, at a predraft camp in Chicago in 2001, he did not need long to reach an assessment.

Parker, then a 19-year-old from France, had generated some buzz with a strong performance against a team of American high school all-stars. He intrigued the Spurs, who had the last pick of the first round. But Popovich’s appraisal after the workout was typically blunt: Parker was too soft.

When R. C. Buford, then the assistant general manager, got more looks at Parker, who had just arrived off a plane from Paris for that initial workout, he persuaded Popovich to take another look. So the Spurs set up a workout in San Antonio. Popovich brought in three players he described with a chuckle as thugs and stationed them for 45 minutes with Parker on the low block. The workout had little to do with playing point guard, scoring guard or basketball, really.

“They just wanted to see what I was made of,” Parker said. “I didn’t even realize it was for that. I was just trying to do my best. I was happy to do a workout for an N.B.A. team.”

This story shows one reason the Spurs have been so successful. Their coach and general manager spoke about their disagreement, and Popovich remained open-minded. Certainly, other coaches might not have been willing to give Parker a true second look.

Popovich and the Spurs are certainly glad he did, though.

PBT Extra bold prediction: Is this Andrew Wiggins’ breakout season?

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Minnesota is going to be entertaining to watch this season. A healthy Ricky Rubio (hopefully) dishing at the point, Karl-Anthony Towns is already a high-IQ passer, and bench players such as Shabazz Muhammad and Adreian Payne have shown some skills.

Then there’s Andrew Wiggins. The reigning Rookie of the Year developed quickly last season — particularly his jump shot — and he should make a big leap this season. He’s going to dunk on people and end up in a lot of highlight packages while putting up a lot of points.

Enough to set the Minnesota Timberwolves single game scoring record, currently held at 52 by Mo Williams? That’s the question for this PBT Extra with Jenna Corrado.

Derrick Rose being back for start of season in question

Fred Hoiberg, Derrick Rose
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The Bulls have said Derrick Rose is about a week away from returning after suffering a facial fracture this preseason.

The start of the NBA season is two weeks from today (Oct. 27).

So Rose will be ready to go when the Bulls start their season that first night against Cleveland, right? Don’t bet on it, says Vincent Goodwill of, quoting coach Fred Hoiberg.

The opening night projection for a Derrick Rose return is a bit murky at this point, as the Bulls are taking a cautious approach to his recovery with Fred Hoiberg essentially ruling him out for the rest of the preseason.

“Most likely (out for the preseason),” Hoiberg said….

In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Rose sit out the first handful of games, as the Bulls start the season with a three-game in four-night stretch starting Oct. 27 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, which is in two weeks.

“That will be in consideration, sure,” Hoiberg said. “We gotta make sure, he really hasn’t done anything and that will be a good two or three weeks where he has total inactivity, so just to throw him back out there going 100 percent with his speed and everything, you just don’t want to take any risks, chances, where it could be a lingering issue.”

Just what TNT and the NBA hoped for with an opening night Bulls vs. Cavaliers showcase: Kirk Hinrich vs. Mo Williams. (Don’t forget Kyrie Irving will miss the start of the season recovering from his knee surgery.)

Of course, this is the smart play for the Bulls who need to be thinking about getting Rose fully healthy and focusing on what condition he will be come April 27, not Oct. 27.

And of course, a lot of Bulls fans who are down on Rose will slam him for this. Even though the injury was a freak accident and the team is right to be patient.

Rose could play opening night, if he gets back to practice next week and can get closer to basketball shape. But I wouldn’t bet on it.