This is one of those stories that gets more attention than it deserves simply because of the time of year the season is in. The playoff spotlight is shining bright, and every word uttered by every player still standing in the playoffs will be scrutinized.
Spurs guard Tony Parker on Wednesday put himself in that position while revealing his upcoming plan of attack against Thunder guard Russell Westbrook in the Western Conference Finals.
I’m definitely going to go at him. It’s not going to be like Dallas or the Lakers, where their point guards are not as aggressive. I’m going to go at him and make sure he works a little bit.
Color me indifferent.
These comments from Parker are being made into a big deal in some parts? Really? What else is Parker supposed to say? ‘Westbrook’s a great player and I doubt I’ll be able to score against him so I’m going to defer to my teammates.’
Let’s not pretend Parker got out of pocket here. What Parker said was simply the truth, as well as an obvious part of what will be the Spurs’ game plan.
Of Jason Kidd’s 41 shot attempts in Dallas’ series with the Thunder, 26 were 3-pointers. Lakers guard Ramon Sessions, meanwhile, took just 34 shots in his team’s five-game series with the Thunder.
On the other hand, in just his last three games against the Clippers, Parker took more shots (52) than both Kidd and Sessions in their respective series with the Thunder. Parker’s offensive aggressiveness is what makes the Spurs go. In no way can you consider Parker’s comments to be trash talk.
Now that’s a different story.
Thunder heads’ favorite talking head, Skip Bayless of First Take fame, actually hit the nail on the head Thursday when discussing Parker’s comments with cohort Stephen A. Smith. Beginning at the five-minute mark in the below video, Bayless explains how Parker’s comments could be nothing more than good old fashion gamesmanship.
“The bait is being laid,” Bayless said. “The trap is being set here. Because Tony Parker wants Russell Westbrook to think this is going to be a mano a mano shootout. And then that means Russell Westbrook better get himself 30 shots in Game 1.”
That could be the worst thing to happen to the Thunder. Or the best thing depending on how focused and determined Westbrook is while trying to win the battle. But we all remember Parker posting 42 on the Thunder back in February. Westbrook does, too. In that game, Parker got in Westbrook’s head and carried the Spurs to one of their two statement wins over the Thunder.
Westbrook would be wise to ignore Parker, to take a pass on the bait. He’s got nothing to prove in this series, other than his ability to help lead the Thunder to the finals. Accomplishing that has little to do with Westbrook winning his one-on-one matchup. Out-dueling Parker would be just icing on the cake.
Fortunately for the Thunder, Westbrook seems to realize that.