With Hill's Emergence, Spurs Backcourt Gets Mighty Interesting
Hill has been starting over Parker, the $12.6 million guard, during these playoffs. Parker, of course, has been effective himself, averaging 17 points and five assists in 32 minutes over the four games. But Hill was out of sight over the two games at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, scoring a total of 46 points. As Manu Ginobili (still brilliant, as the Mavericks' defenders will testify) has been retained for the next three seasons, Hill's emergence, an ascension begun soon after his acquisition nearly two years ago, has placed some question marks around the Spurs' backcourt. Or, exclamation marks.
Either way, Hill makes the San Antonio backcourt mighty interesting.
Gregg Popovich hasn't had three guards this potent since 2002-03, when Stephen Jackson began his rise to stardom. During that title season, Jackson started 58 games next to a 20-year-old Parker, with a rookie 25-year-old Ginobili playing 20 minutes a game off the bench. That team is remembered best for the final hurrah of the Twin Towers, Tim Duncan and David Robinson. But the combinations Popovich was able to toss out in his guard line really helped the big fellas get it done. With Duncan now aging, and the supporting frontcourt decidedly less potent than Robinson, Pop needs his guards to be better than ever.
On first glance, having two solid point guards might seem like a luxury the Spurs can't afford, not with holes at small forward and around Duncan. This is where the Spurs' shocking decision to spend big (in the form of a 2009 trade for Richard Jefferson) for these final championship attempts with Duncan messes up the conventional wisdom. Regardless of whether Jefferson really does opt out of his 2010-11 contract for $15.2 million, we can't expect the Spurs to avoid salary like the plague: these are the throes of a dynasty, and the actors involved want another ring. That could happen this year, especially considering that the Spurs are having an easier first round than any of the West's top-4 seeds. But if it doesn't, the Spurs clearly don't think they're dead, or else Ginobili wouldn't have had his contract extended. The window's staying open, and the Spurs look to smuggle as much hope as possible through it.
That's why you have to believe that, unless a deal for a big man Pop and R.C. Buford can't pass up comes along, the Spurs will keep the Parker-Hill-Ginobili trio together. Right now, starting Hill (the cheap young one) and Manu (the magnificent but aging one) while Parker (the expensive and famous one) comes off the bench, that works. It remains to be seen whether the Frenchman will be content in a Manu-like role for an entire season, or if Popovich will be determined to return Hill or experienced sixth-man Ginobili to the third-guard position. Whichever way it's sliced, it looks beautiful right now, with each of the three turning in superlative performances as the Spurs find themselves in command of a series. Again.