The Charlotte Hornets addressed their stated need for depth at point guard Monday when they made the signing of former San Antonio Spur Tony Parker official.
Parker, 36, will play his first of 18 NBA seasons for a team other than the Spurs, who drafted him late in the first round of the 2001 draft. Parker will back up All-Star Kemba Walker at the point and can also be a resource for rookie point guard Devonte Graham, but his value to new coach James Borrego will extend beyond his statistics.
Borrego was an assistant coach with the Spurs for much of Parker’s playing career in San Antonio, so he can help convey some of what Borrego will prioritize as Hornets coach. Parker is also a close friend of Hornets guard Nic Batum; the two have played together for many summers on the French national team.
The Hornets did not provide contract terms. ESPN reported Parker is guaranteed $5 million for next season, with the 2019-20 season a team option at $5.25 million. The Spurs expressed some interest in re-signing him and the Denver Nuggets also were interested. In a phone interview with the Observer July 9, Parker made it clear he feels he has plenty left to offer the Hornets.
“I take this very seriously,” Parker said. “(That approach) is why we were so good in San Antonio: We were never satisfied, we pushed our limitations.”
Parker said the opportunity to help Borrego succeed in his first full-time job as an NBA head coach (he was an interim coach previously in Orlando) was part of the appeal in coming to Charlotte. Borrego said during summer league in Las Vegas, when word spread of Parker’s decision, how elated he was.
“He is such a valuable piece, and has been to that Spurs organization. We’re very fortunate right now,” Borrego said.
“We were trying to find a player in free-agency that had experience, had wisdom, had winning DNA. We’ve identified a player for our roster who can really help us grow, take that next step.”
Parker played mostly as a reserve last season behind starting point guard Dejounte Murray. He came back last season from a ruptured quadriceps tendon suffered during the playoffs in May of 2017.
The Hornets had limited resources in free-agency this summer, with their player payroll well above the NBA salary cap next season and approaching the luxury-tax threshold. The Hornets trading center Dwight Howard to the Brooklyn Nets created some space below that luxury-tax line of $123 million. That facilitated the Parker signing.
Parker’s relationship with Batum could be constructive, with Batum looking to bounce back from a sub-standard season. Batum is still owed about $75 million remaining on a 5-year, $120 million contract he signed in the summer of 2016.
“He’s been a business partner and my little brother,” Parker said of Batum. “I hope we can get the best out of him next season.”