LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Charlotte point guard Tony Parker’s emotional return to San Antonio on Monday ended with a 108-93 Hornets victory and an ovation from Spurs fans who still consider him one of their own.
Parker, of France, won four NBA championships in his 17 seasons in San Antonio, part of the Spurs’ famed “Big Three’’ alongside Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who forged a deep friendship with the player who arrived in the NBA as a teenager, admitted it would be “weird’’ to see Parker take the court in the teal uniform of the Hornets.
“It pulls at the heartstrings a little bit, but the situation is great for him,’’ Popovich told reporters over the weekend as he looked ahead to the game.
“He’s landed in a good place and he’s having a good season and he’s happy. So as long as he’s happy, I’m happy.’’
Spurs fans clearly felt the same.
There was none of the animosity that greeted ex-Spur Kawhi Leonard, who forced a trade after last season and faced cries of ‘’traitor’’ when he played for Toronto in San Antonio this month.
Parker, 36, opted to make a move when it became clear after last season he would be the team’s third option at point guard and has thrived in a back-up role in Charlotte.
Fans cheered Parker’s introduction – after a pre-game video tribute put together by the Spurs – and his entry into the contest with less than five minutes to play in the opening quarter.
Parker, the 2007 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, finished with eight points, four assists and three rebounds in 19 minutes on the court.
Kemba Walker led the Hornets’ charge with 33 points and Jeremy Lamb added 19.
Parker returned to the contest in the waning seconds, fans chanting “Tony! Tony!’’ as he held the ball until the clock ticked down.