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Old 02-26-09, 04:23 AM
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Knowing just how to do it, Parker falls
Knowing just how to do it, Parker falls
Buck Harvey
Tim Duncan was out again because of pain in his one “good” knee. Manu Ginobili was out again because of pain in his one “good” ankle.

And there was Tony Parker, on the first Spurs possession Wednesday night, driving until he fell on his one, good head.

These three win together, and they hurt together.

The Spurs would have worried at the latest, except it was Parker. Maybe no one in the league crashes to the floor as often as he does, and how he falls outlines his prime as much as his jump shots and floaters do.

After all, he keeps getting up.

For Parker, maybe it's easier to play as he has these past two nights. Without Duncan and Ginobili, he doesn't have to worry whether it's his turn. He's free, and he can probe the defense until he sees what he likes, with nothing

else in his head.

“I love these opportunities,” Parker said. “I'm not saying I want to play every game like that, but if it's one or two games, you show what you can do.”

Gregg Popovich always wants Parker to be aggressive as a scorer. But there are green lights, and then there are neon ones. So Parker went after the Mavericks and then the Blazers as his onetime role model, Isiah Thomas, once did.

Just as back-to-back: Popovich called Parker “a super stud” for the second consecutive night.

Teammates waited for him, and Popovich rationed him. Parker rested in the fourth quarter until there were less than seven minutes to go, with the Blazers pulling within seven points. From there he returned to finish off Portland, including a play with about a minute left.

Then Parker somehow kept his dribble alive, squeezed through a crack, drew a foul — and fell to the floor yet again.

For the record, that gave him 39 points, nine assists and a somewhat low total of three knockdowns.

He says he's learned the trick, just as he's learned others. He didn't start to master his floater until several years into his career, and lately he's added a Steve Nash, off-the-wrong-leg layup.

On this one, he says he doesn't jump. “It's a really quick flip,” Parker said.

The entire package is only in place when his jumper is. When that's going as it was Wednesday, and defenses can't play under the screen, then he becomes what he has been these last two games.

As good as Chris Paul. As good as anyone.

But there's more to the package than most see. He jets to the rim knowing there will be an elbow or a hip waiting, and the play isn't over when he releases the basketball. Then, instead of fighting the blow, he gives in to it.

“I think it is safer for me go down than not go down,” Parker said. “I think a lot of times, I'm avoiding big contact. It saves my knees, too.”

Another camp disagrees with this. John Stockton never played off the floor, for example, and Jerry Sloan thinks that's one of the reasons Stockton had so few injuries.

Stockton missed 22 games in 18 years, a remarkable sign of a good body and better luck. Parker has missed about twice as many games as Stockton while playing about half as long.

Still, Thomas held up going to the floor, as has Allen Iverson. And scouts watch Parker and see why he survives as the others did.

“He lands like a cat,” said one.

Parker says he lands that way because, compared to those waiting for him in the lane, he weighs about as much as a cat. So he bounces off easily.


“I make sure I land on the palms of my hands, because then I can control it,” Parker said. “You start landing on your elbows and your shoulders, and you start having bruises.”

So he exhausted himself against the Mavericks, rested, drank a lot of fluids, rested again. Then he came out against a younger, taller, longer team — and went straight at the basket on the first play.

Parker arced in a one-hand push shot from the side, and with that the Blazers 7-foot-1 center, Joel Przybilla, swatted him down. Parker then did what he's learned to do.

Standing up, with two good knees and two good ankles, he added 37 more points.
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