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Tony Parker (France)

SAN ANTONIO (Olympics/NBA/FIBA Basketball World Cup) - San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich doesn't hand out praise to one of his players unless it's fully deserved.

In the case of veteran point guard Tony Parker of France, the player who has been pulling the strings and running the Spurs for a decade, Popovich has a lot of good things to say.

The biggest compliment was made when Popovich was asked which of his players had been the most coachable in San Antonio during his time in charge.

"I would say that we’ve had a steady stream of players that have been very team-oriented," Popovich said.

"And usually when people are team-oriented, they’re also very coachable, so it’s hard to pick.

"I’d say the guy I’ve been toughest on, and he’s come through it all, is Tony Parker.

"In that sense, he’s listened to me and believed in what I told him even when he was angry with me or at times didn’t understand what I was talking about.

"But he trusted me, and I’ll always appreciate that."

Popovich has benefitted from having players like Parker, who hail from foreign lands, on his roster.

This summer, Parker, Boris Diaw and Nando de Colo (France), Tiago Splitter (Brazil), Pat Mills (Australia) and Manu Ginobili (Argentina) all competed at the London Games.

Each is likely to feature at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, too, in 2014.

The Olympic experience, according to Popovich, only makes them better.

Popovich was an assistant coach with the United States in 2004 when they won a bronze medal in Athens.

"It was really a good experience for them," he said.

"I know they all wanted to win medals and that sort of thing, but winning medals has often times got a lot more to do with circumstances and timing and those sort of things."

None of the Spurs players reached the podium, including Ginobili who had to settle for a fourth-place finish after Russia's 81-77 victory over Argentina in the Bronze Medal Game.

"You know Argentina’s best years were a few years ago when they were a little bit younger and a little bit deeper as a group, but I really enjoyed their competitiveness," Popovich said.

"Same with the French team, they went out and competed and did a great job, Tony leading the French obviously and Manu leading the Argentinians.

"Tiago did the same thing in Brazil, but you know Boris and Nando De Colo both played on the French team.

"So they all got good experience, and I think playing organized basketball in the summer is always a plus."

As for Mills, Popovich said he wasn't surprised that back-up guard had done well in London and he expects the Australia to have a good season with the Spurs.

"I didn’t need to see his Olympic performance to know what he can bring," Popovich said.

"It’s just that he came to us so late last year it was really hard to incorporate him into what we were doing.

"But he’s an aggressive, fiery, offensive player.

"He can shoot the three and really score, and that’s what he looks to do when he comes in the game.

"So he’ll be a game-changer in that sense (this season), at the offensive end.

"And defensively, he’s kind of like a pest - he’s not very big but he’s really a gamer.

"He’s got great courage and he gets into people, trying to really bother them and get them off their game.

"So his competitiveness and offensive skills are what we’re looking forward to mostly."


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