Parker has triumphant return as Hornets down Spurs, 108-93
SAN ANTONIO (AP) – The fans in San Antonio didn’t care too much about a rare home loss. They only wanted to shower Tony Parker with love and appreciation.
Parker gave them plenty to cheer about, just as he did for 17 seasons with the Spurs.
“Draining mentally, emotionally, it was just an awesome night,” Parker said. “Just want to thank the fans. The way they reacted tonight was just unbelievable. Love, and I appreciate everything. It was just a great memory and a great night for me that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
Parker had eight points, four assists, three rebounds and no turnovers in his first game back in San Antonio after signing with the Hornets during the offseason.
LaMarcus Aldridge led the Spurs with 28 points and 10 rebounds, but they could not muster enough energy as Parker made his emotional return.
“Just to see him embraced and loved tonight, and he helped us as well,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “A pillar of this community, a pillar of the San Antonio Spurs organization forever. I think it’s a pretty good ending to a fun night.”
The Spurs honored Parker before the game with a two-minute video of his career highlights in San Antonio, including being drafted with the 28th pick in 2001 and his four NBA championships with the team. After the video, the Spurs’ retired jerseys appeared on the video monitors and an empty spot in the rafters was shown to signify Parker’s future place among them. The crowd roared in appreciation, chanting “Tony! Tony! Tony!”
“I expected nothing less,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who considers Parker like a son. “Tony is a wonderful human being. He was a great player for us and he deserved all the love that he received, that’s for sure.”
The cheers continued when Parker entered the game for the first time with 4:50 remaining in the first quarter.
Just as he first did as a 19-year-old rookie with the Spurs, the slippery point guard juked past defenders and drove the paint probing for layups or open teammates. His driving layup put the Hornets up 82-79 with 8:15 remaining.
“That was vintage Tony,” Borrego said. “We’ve seen that before many times in this building.”
Parker exited shortly after that and did not return until fans demanded it by chanting his name again with 17.6 seconds left. Borrego, a former Spurs assistant, granted their wish and put Parker in amid loud cheers that continued until he came out.
“I thought they supported Tony, like I expected,” San Antonio point guard Derrick White said. “He did great things for the organization. It’s well deserved. Definitely good to see him. Wish him the best.”
Parker had a long embrace with Popovich following the game as fans cheered.
The Spurs’ ideology has stuck with Parker, who jokingly got angry with his teammates after the win.
“They wanted it bad,” Parker said. “Before the game they were like, ‘We’re going to do this for you Tony, you deserve it.’ They played so hard that after the game I’m like, ‘Why don’t we play like that every road game? Come on guys.'”
The jubilation in the stands came despite a rough night for the hometown team.
The Spurs opened the game on an 11-3 run but the Hornets followed with a 25-7 spurt to take their first double-digit lead at 28-18.
Hornets: The team’s previous win in San Antonio came on Nov. 15, 2006. … Parker and Michael Jordan are the only players to compete against the team they won four championships with. Jordan faced Chicago while with Washington and Charlotte, a franchise he now owns. … Borrego received a warm ovation during pregame introductions. He served on Popovich’s staff from 2003-10 and again from 2015-18 before joining the Hornets.
Spurs: Gay missed his fifth straight game with a sprained left wrist and 10th overall due to injury or rest. … Belinelli missed his second game of the season after hyperextending his knee during a 122-112 loss at Oklahoma City on Saturday. He previously sat out with a stiff neck on Dec. 2.
WELCOME HOME, TOO
Parker wasn’t the only one who enjoyed a triumphant return. Borrego defeated his friend and mentor, Popovich.
“It was special in many ways,” Borrego said. “Just to see (Popovich) first of all. Just to hear his voice, give him a hug, that was most important. This is a basketball game. We do our best, we compete, but there’s a lot of love here. Just great to see him. He’s been a great encouragement for me. I know he’s happy for us.”
Hornets: Host the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night.
Spurs: At the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night.
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