In playfully suggesting that the Jazz’s best strategy for dealing with San Antonio teammate Tony Parker is to “maybe kidnap him,” Spurs forward Stephen Jackson became just another observer proposing some desperate strategy to stop Parker.
I once advocated the Jazz’s having Dee Brown defend Parker. Yes, that would be the Dee Brown who was a rookie point guard in 2007 and then played only 19 more games in the NBA. But forgive me and Jackson for expressing these radical thoughts. That’s how Parker affects people, and it happens every time the Jazz and Spurs meet in the playoffs in this century.
“The Jazz have to figure out how to disrupt Parker’s driving-and-dishing, whether that takes trapping, cutting him off outside the lane or … forcing Parker to finish the play himself.”
That’s what I wrote after Game 2 of the Western Conference finals five years ago, when the Spurs eventually won the series in five games. Parker’s passing was a big problem then for Deron Williams and Derek Fisher and Parker’s scoring is a major issue now for Devin Harris and Jamaal Tinsley, going into Wednesday’s Game 2 at the AT&T Center:
Some help would be welcomed, such as the Jazz’s big guys hedging more on the pick-and-roll to confront Parker. “It’s a team responsibility to contain him,” Al Jefferson said.
Some creativity might work, such as having 6-foot-8 Gordon Hayward defend Parker occasionally.
Yet fundamentally, the Jazz just need improved play from Harris on both ends of the court.
Next to Jefferson, this guy was the Jazz’s best player during their push to the playoffs, averaging 16.5 points in April. In Sunday’s Game 1, Harris posted only seven points and two assists in nearly 26 minutes, with his defensive struggles presumably leading coach Tyrone Corbin to give 20 minutes to Tinsley — formerly the team’s No. 3 point guard, prior to Earl Watson’s season-ending injury.
Parker “split a lot of pick-and-rolls and was able to get into the paint, make plays, get to the free-throw line and do what he does well,” Harris said.
In 2007, Parker hurt the Jazz with his assists for 3-pointers. Sunday, he killed them with his own shooting, scoring 28 points mostly by making 9 of 12 shots in the paint.
Like the Jazz, Harris has been here before. He played well enough against Parker to help Dallas outlast the Spurs in seven games of a West semifinal series in 2006, on the Mavericks’ way to the NBA Finals.
That’s why Parker said, “I know he’s going to bounce back. He’s a great player and he’s proved it over the years.”
Jazz followers need more current evidence of Harris’ ability to truly feel good about his future with the team. He certainly delivered in April, further justifying the February 2011 trade of Williams to New Jersey that brought Harris, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter (via a 2012 draft choice) and another first-round pick (likely in 2013) to Utah. The Jazz’s long-term vision appears brilliant.
Here and now, they need Harris to perform like an All-Star against Parker, on both ends of the court. Let’s face it, though: Harris is who he is. He’s basically a top-15 NBA point guard, playing for a top-15 NBA team.
So he’s not the only Jazzman who needs to respond in this series, nor is Parker the only Spur who can cause trouble. Yet Parker certainly was San Antonio’s star in Game 1, which makes Harris critical to the Jazz’s fortunes in Game 2 and beyond, unless Corbin comes up with some other revolutionary scheme.
I know this: Dee Brown is unavailable.