Tony Parker not the NBA’s best point guard, but a darn good one in the NBA Finals

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When Tony Parker won NBA Finals MVP in 2007, it caught many off guard.

Tim Duncan won Finals MVP for the Spurs’ first three titles, and he was still an All-NBA first-team player during the 2006-07 regular season. A major of ESPN writers surveyed before Game 4 of San Antonio’s sweep over the Cavaliers chose Duncan as series MVP, though there was a definite “My eyes say Parker, but my heart says Duncan” vibe to their answers. Even Parker said, “This is Timmy’s team, and it’s always been Timmy’s team.”

But Parker won the award, and it legitimized him as one of the NBA’s top players. He’s climbed in regular-season MVP voting since, placing sixth this year and fifth last year.

And now that he’s dominating another postseason, Parker’s support has come full circle with some going as far as describing him as the best point guard in the NBA.

Parker is not the best point guard in the NBA. That’s Chris Paul. Parker belongs in a class with Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and Stephen Curry. This is a golden age for NBA point guards, and Parker is certainly a reason, but he’s not the reason.

But Parker is a special postseason player, and in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, he again showed why some people are fooled into believing he’s the best point guard in basketball. Parker had 21 points on 9-of-18 shooting with six assists in the Spurs’ 92-88 win over the Heat.

This game alone won’t win him his second Finals MVP – though it puts him in the discussion right after Duncan and LeBron – but it’s definitely another in a long line of excellent playoff performances, a run that really kicked into high gear in 2007. From that postseason on, nobody else has averaged 21 points on 48 percent shooting with six assists in the playoffs besides Parker.

In addition to his prolonged steadiness, Parker now has a jaw-dropping, game-clinching shot to put on his playoff resume. This is just his time of year, and not losing his dribble, falling to his knees, being defended by LeBron or the shot clock running down is going stop him.

Because he plays with Duncan and is coached by Gregg Popovich, Parker gets postseason opportunities other point guards do not. But to Parker’s credit, he takes advantage of them.

And if the Heat don’t make moves to stop him – maybe having LeBron guard him more – he’ll keep taking advantage of the Heat.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.