Tony Parker's New Contract Clearly Defines San Antonio Spurs' Future

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistAugust 4, 2014

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JUNE 15:  Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs celebrates after the San Antonio Spurs victory in Game Five and winning the 2014 NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center on June 15, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Fresh off their five-game victory over the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs have reminded us it's never too soon to start thinking about the future.

A future that may not look all that different from the present.

The organization locked up All-Star point guard Tony Parker with a three-year extension that's set to kick in after the 2014-15 campaign. Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski cites league sources claiming the deal is worth $43.3 million.

Per Wojnarowski, "He will make $13.4 million, $14.4 million and $15.4 million during the extension, a league source said."

By all indications, the 32-year-old will likely finish his career with the Spurs. According to the San Antonio Express-News' Jeff McDonald, Parker said, "I’m very happy and I want to play for the Spurs my whole career and be a Spur for life. I love San Antonio and want to live here when my career is over. I love the city, I love the people and our great fans. I couldn’t be happier."

Parker—who recently married fiancee Axelle Francine—remains an essential ingredient to San Antonio's success and has shown few signs of slowing down even as he progresses through his 30s.

His numbers took a slight dip last season as head coach Gregg Popovich further restricted time on the floor. Parker averaged 16.7 points and 5.7 assists in just 29.4 minutes per game but remained an efficient scorer and converted on 49.9 percent of his field-goal attempts.

In other words, the regression from the 20.3 points and 7.6 assists posted in 2012-13 had more to do with preserving Parker for the postseason than it did his quality of play.

With his playing time bumped up to an average of 35.2 minutes in the Finals, Parker responded with 18 points per contest during the series. He averaged nearly 20 per game during San Antonio's first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks, including 32 must-have points in a decisive Game 7.

When the season's most important games were on the line, Parker responded and proved he's still one of the league's most dependable floor generals.

And that's how the Spurs saw things, too.

"His play warranted the commitment of the organization," general manager R.C. Buford said, according to the Express-News' Jeff McDonald. "At the same time, he made a commitment to our organization, too, by doing this now and taking himself out of a free-agency opportunity a year from now."

Of course, San Antonio also prides itself on preserving institutional knowledge through personnel continuity.

As McDonald notes, "Earlier this summer, 38-year-old captain Tim Duncan opted in for the final season of his contract, while the Spurs re-signed free agents Boris Diaw, Patty Mills and Matt Bonner and reached a contract extension with longtime coach Gregg Popovich."'s James Herbert added:

It's been discussed to death, but it really is remarkable how the Spurs have done what they've done. It's so rare for one player to spend his whole career with the team that drafted him, and it looks like we're going to see it happen with three future Hall of Famers in Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.

Instead of attempting to get out in front of what may seem like an inevitable rebuild, San Antonio is looking to extend its title window—making the most of skilled veterans while they're still around.

For cynics who've prematurely proclaimed the franchise's aging demise for the last several years, the moves probably seem risky. Isn't Parker on the verge of losing some of his patented quickness? Can we really expect Diaw to have another transcendent postseason?

Shouldn't Duncan start looking his age right about now?

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JUNE 15: Tim Duncan #21 and Head Coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs celebrates after winning the NBA Championship against the Miami Heat during Game Five of the 2014 NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs at A
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Legitimate concerns to be sure, but the Spurs have been preparing for this moment for some time. Younger pieces like the emerging Kawhi Leonard and quietly steady Tiago Splitter now carry much of the regular-season load while the iconic Big Three play on a more as-needed basis. 

And it's those younger pieces who will find themselves adopting ever-increasing roles once Duncan and sixth man Manu Ginobili move on for good. 

Fortunately, it appears Parker will be part of that future equation.

The organization's next step is locking up its 23-year-old small forward. notes, "Leonard is eligible for an extension on his rookie deal, and Popovich has already dubbed him the player who will take over the franchise after Duncan finally decides to retire."

Though it remains somewhat unclear how much of the scoring burden Leonard will take on, there's little doubt he's a two-way player with legitimate star potential. His MVP Finals performance may well have been a hint of things to come.

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JUNE 15: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs winner of the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award addresses the media after winning the Larry O'Brien Trophy in Game Five of the 2014 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat at
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After getting off to a slow start in the series, Leonard scored a combined 71 points through the final three contests. Despite debuting as a three-and-D specialist with a penchant for the corner long ball, the swingman has emerged as a versatile scoring threat replete with a much-improved in-between game and explosive finishing ability.

Before long, Leonard should join Parker as the anchor of San Antonio's offense. He can make things happen with the ball in his hands and is only beginning to discover his potential to take games over.

That doesn't mean Buford's job is complete. This is a team that's gotten this far on account of superior depth and chemistry. Just as the franchise consistently surrounded its iconic Big Three with a supporting cast capable of contending, the next generation of Spurs will require similarly adept role players.

SAN ANTONIO, TX JUNE 6: R.C. Buford, General Manager of the San Antonio Spurs addresses the media during media availability as part of the 2014 NBA Finals on June 6, 2014 at the Spurs Practice Facility in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly a
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But who wants to bet against Buford acquiring precisely that?

For all the questions about this team's near-future, the important answers are already in place—or, in Leonard's case, likely to be in place.

Parker's presence ensures that San Antonio will continue to play with pace and that it will remain one of the most dangerous pick-and-roll clubs in the league. His ability to penetrate or pull up from mid-range means the Spurs will continue to have a reliable fourth-quarter presence capable of putting games away.

In short, chances are San Antonio has what it takes to remain in the title conversation for at least a few years to come. The inevitable losses of Duncan and Ginobili will take their respective tolls and undoubtedly mark the end of an era.

When that time comes, an infusion of some new talent will be in order.

The good news is that San Antonio will still have a core capable of attracting that talent. Parker and Leonard are proven winners, and they headline a proven franchise. And whatever free agency yields, the Spurs still have a handful of prospects stashed overseas—most notably Livio Jean-Charles and Davis Bertans.

Some faces will change, and there certainly reasons to be a year or two of growing pains at some point. 

But that may be as far as the bad news goes. Now that San Antonio's future is taking shape, it's becoming increasingly safe to predict that it's a bright one. The more things change for the NBA's model franchise, the more they will stay the same.

A true dynasty wouldn't have it any other way.