About Last Night

About Last Night: Parker's triumphant return

Spurs welcome legend back to town, Harden runs wild again and Celtics' struggles continue

Tony Parker makes it clear: If it was fully up to him, he never would have left the only NBA team he’d ever played for.

Coming off a catastrophic Achilles injury in the midst of his 17th season, with the prospect of ample time on the bench as the San Antonio Spurs’ third-string point guard, Parker instead said no thanks and shocked pretty much everyone by signing with the Charlotte Hornets last summer.

“They really didn’t take me seriously that I was going to leave,” said Parker, as reported by ESPN.

Monday, however, was no time to obsess about the past.

Both parties have moved on, and Parker’s first appearance in San Antonio since he departed was an opportunity not to grieve, but to celebrate a player who joined the Spurs as a raw teenager from France and left with four championship rings, six All-Star appearances, a Finals MVP award and status as one of the very best players to ever wear their uniform.

It started early as Parker was shocked during warmups to find his immediate family at courtside, flown in from France by the Spurs.

It continued before tipoff with an emotional video tribute that brought the AT&T Center to its feet …

… and then another standing ovation as Parker checked in for the first time.

And they still weren’t finished! Not satisfied with the 150-minute lovefest, Spurs fans urged Hornets coach James Borrego to sub Parker back in for the final seconds, so they could shower him with adulation one more time.

Not surprisingly, it was a stark difference from the recent homecoming of former Spur Kawhi Leonard, who was booed relentlessly throughout his return game earlier this month.

While Parker didn’t have the best game, shooting just 4-for-12 from the floor, he did finish with eight points, including a vintage coast-to-coast drive as the Hornets pulled away for their 108-93 victory. Given how many times he ripped off that exact same play over nearly two decades with the Spurs, it was only fitting he did it to help finish them off.

Important as it was to the Hornets, who are battling hard for a lower-tier playoff spot in the East, the victory couldn’t help but take a distant back seat to the reunion between Parker and the franchise he served so well, for so long.

“I’m very tired,” Parker said. “It was draining, mentally and emotionally. It was just an awesome night. I want to thank the fans. It was unbelievable love, and I appreciate everything. It’s a great memory I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

Said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who shared a lengthy embrace/exchange with his long-time point guard after the game: “I expected nothing less. Tony was a great player for us and he deserved all the love that he received.”

Back on track

James Harden continued his monster scoring run with 38 points against the Magic on Sunday, but it came with a rare blemish: His 16 missed 3-pointers tied the single-game record for most misses from beyond the arc.

But the relentless NBA schedule offers immediate opportunities for atonement, and Harden took full advantage.

The reigning Kia MVP punished the Grizzlies with one of the best games of his career, a 57-point onslaught in which he set the Rockets team mark with 36 in the first half while extending his streak of 30-point games to 17, the NBA’s best since the 1976 merger and trailing only Elgin Baylor’s 18 among everyone not named Wilt Chamberlain.

Even more impressively, it came just as the Rockets learned they’ll be without interior lynchpin Clint Capela for up to six weeks. With starting point guard Chris Paul expected to be out for at least a few more weeks with a bad hamstring, the Rockets will need as much greatness as Harden can give them.

And as he’s proven over the past 17 games (41.3 points, 9.2 assists) — indeed his entire tenure with the Rockets — he’s more than ready for the challenge.

Dog days of winter

Rumors of the Celtics’ ascendance have, once again, been greatly exaggerated.

Just as a previous eight-game streak was followed by a lengthy stretch of mediocrity, they’ve now dropped three straight after a modest four-win stretch had seemingly signaled that they were ready, finally, to pursue their expected perch near the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

The latest setback came courtesy of the Nets, who outscored the Celtics by 23 in the third quarter and led by as many as 27 in the fourth before a cosmetic run in garbage time made the 109-102 final far closer than it should have been.

Adding insult to injury, Nets fans taunted the Celtics after star point guard Kyrie Irving, who missed the game with a quad injury, criticized his teammates following Saturday’s loss to the Magic.


Irving was contrite at Monday’s shootaround, attributing the censure to his competitiveness.

“I just want to win so bad,” he said.

He followed that up by reportedly praising his teammates after their comeback attempt against the Nets in what was described as a “positive message” by NBC Sports Boston’s A. Sherrod Blakely.

But at least one of those teammates, Jaylen Brown, didn’t seem quite convinced after a pointed statement of his own.

“We have to have everybody’s back,” he said. “We can’t make comments, we can’t point fingers. It starts from the top to the bottom, not bottom to the top. It’s not the young guys’ or old guys’ fault — it’s everybody.”

Big rig

The world’s largest 12-year-old, Clippers center Boban Marjanovic, motors to the locker room.

Kiss of death

Some Pistons fans bought courtside seats in Utah. Channeling his inner Mario Elie, Jazz sharpshooter Joe Ingles happily sent them on their way after drilling the game-clinching 3.