Buck Harvey: Parker better as a silent partner

Just outside security, on the way to baggage claim in San Antonio’s newest airport terminal, is a large video screen.

“Tony Parker, client,” are the words on it.

Parker is pictured wearing a suit, as well as an expression that suggests he, while wearing the suit, could take Jason Kidd off the dribble. Parker has lent his name to a San Antonio-based business group that handles insurance, mortgages and “wealth management.”

So what if this company suffered a bad quarter? Would Parker be as blunt as he was last week about the Spurs?

Or would he remember he’s being paid by the group?

If anything, what Parker said at a Paris press conference last week is the consensus. “Our team can still perform at the highest level,” he said of the Spurs, “but next year I don’t think we can play for the title.”

Charles Barkley said that during THIS season. Vegas will soon say that about the next.

Parker’s opinion also fits with what he said last September. Then, he announced “this will be our last real chance to win a title.”

Just as his reasoning then was based on Tim Duncan’s age, Parker referred to that again last week. This time, he added Manu Ginobili to the list ? of the elderly.

Those of us who write about the Spurs for a living appreciate Parker’s candor. And if Parker would take that a step further, and tell us what he really thinks about Richard Jefferson, then we’d have something juicy to write about next week, too.

But even while Parker was right, he was also wrong. He distanced himself from failure, and he also distanced himself from those who pay him millions.

Parker likely didn’t mean anything by it. He wasn’t cleverly trying to get traded, as some have suggested. This was Tony being Tony. When he gets in front of the French media, he often acts the part of the country’s biggest NBA star.

He also forgets South Texas can still hear him from across an ocean. Parker talked, after all, as if Game 1 against Memphis never happened.

If Duncan and Ginobili were the ones being candid, they would ask how much age had to do with the Spurs’ failure that night. Had Parker played well in the opener — or if he had merely made an open jumper with 30 seconds left — the Spurs’ postseason might have changed dramatically.

Duncan and Ginobili know they are getting older. They likely wonder, too, if they will ever win another title. But they would sell the other side publicly, that a 61-win team should be able to contend again if management finds some help.

Being competitors, they would never admit they have no chance. They wouldn’t admit that as employees, either, and that is Parker’s disconnect. He’s like a lot of athletes. His guaranteed salary separates him from the business of basketball.

He earned more than $13 million this past season, and less than a year ago, he signed a four-year contract under the terms of the old collective bargaining agreement. He’s set.

His franchise, however, isn’t. The Spurs will not only be trying to sell tickets in a slow economy, they will also be entering a labor impasse that won’t sell a thing. For a small-market team ready to suffer a lockout to get better business conditions, it’s a crossroads.

Parker should empathize, since he owns a piece of a professional French franchise, ASVEL Basket. But he’s nothing more than an investor. He doesn’t make his money in a suit, and the only “wealth management” he knows comes from the checks the Spurs send him.

He’s what the airport signage says he is. A client, a face, a pitchman.

Not a partner.


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