Bubble first-rounders Tinsley, Parker burst through as starting point guards

ON THE NBA

Pro Basketball

November 25, 2001|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

One slipped through the first round of the draft because of poor performances in postseason tryout camps and what some perceived as a bad attitude in private workouts with several NBA teams. The other sneaked into the first round, barely thought to be more than a possible starter sometime down the road.

After the first month of the season, rookies Jamaal Tinsley and Tony Parker have done the unthinkable as the 27th and 28th picks in June's draft: Tinsley and Parker are starting at point guard for their respective teams, the Indiana Pacers and the San Antonio Spurs.

And, in Tinsley's case, starring might be a more appropriate description.

Tinsley, who played at Iowa State, was on a roll going into Friday night's game in Indianapolis against the Spurs and Parker, the 19-year-old who grew up in France and played professionally there beginning when he was 15. Tinsley backed up 28- and 29-point performances with his first triple double as a pro.

"I'll never forget this," Tinsley said after handing out 23 assists - two short of the NBA rookie record - while scoring 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in a 110-103 victory over the Washington Wizards on Thursday night at Conseco Fieldhouse. "I don't know how to say it. I'm happy."

After using Jalen Rose at point guard last season with mixed results, Pacers coach Isiah Thomas didn't flinch at trading for Tinsley, who was drafted by Memphis and then traded to Atlanta as part of a draft-night trade that sent No. 3 overall pick Pau Gasol of Spain to the Grizzlies for Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

Still, Thomas didn't expect Tinsley to become a focal point.

"He's been a big surprise," said Thomas. "Where he's surprised us the most is with his defense. He's able to do whatever he needs and we need. It has helped Jalen and Reggie [Miller] tremendously. Jalen can start out playing the small forward, and we don't have to make Reggie at his age [36] take the tough defensive assignment."

Tinsley knew that his stock had plummeted, beginning when Iowa State was bounced from the NCAA tournament in the first round by Hampton. Others were turned off by his background, which included not playing high school basketball in Brooklyn before going to junior college.

Playing for one of the best point guards in NBA history has helped Tinsley's transition.

"I'm going to make mistakes. I'm human," said Tinsley. "I just go out and play hard."

Parker, who was picked by the Spurs, comes with a bit of a pedigree. His father, Sonny, was a Chicago playground legend known as P-Funk who played for six seasons with the Golden State Warriors before carving out a career in Europe. The younger Parker is the youngest point guard to start in the NBA since 1980.

"Parker is really good," said Thomas, who was a few years behind Parker's father in the Chicago schoolyards and nearly picked the son before deciding on Tinsley. "He's got good speed, great vision and it appears to be the perfect fit for him and the team."

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich moved Parker into the point guard spot to allow Antonio Daniels to move back to his natural shooting guard position behind Steve Smith. The Spurs lost Avery Johnson to free agency and were planning to use Daniels and veteran Terry Porter at the position.

Not so easy Rider

The long, sad history of Isaiah Rider might have finally been played out last week, when the Denver Nuggets waived the troubled, self-destructive guard after one of the shortest stints of his nine-year career.

In this case, the player's nickname - J.R. - should stand for Just Released.

But in cutting Rider, 30, the Nuggets opened the door for some other team to take a chance on a player whose talent made everyone from Dan Issel to Phil Jackson to the myriad of other coaches he played for think they could reform him.

While Issel tried to be diplomatic about Rider's work ethic and said, "I just think we had to give him a chance to go someplace where he could play more," his former teammates in Denver didn't paint such a rosy picture.

"What J.R. could do on the court - he's one of the better players in the league at scoring and drawing a double team," said veteran George McCloud. "But there are other things, intangibles of being a good teammate that make you say that you are better off [without him]. That's just being honest."

Who likes short shorts?

Don't you think NBA commissioner David Stern has better things to worry about than the length of players' shorts? A number of the league's most prominent stars, included Shaquille O'Neal, were fined $5,000 each for wearing their shorts too long.

"We're just getting in line with what the kids are doing ... look what they sell at Foot Locker," said O'Neal. "The league has to decide what they want to do, discipline us or make money."

After kidding that he's going to wear his shorts as high as John Stockton, Shaq feigned tears.

"I'm so sorry, I was just doing it for the kids. The kids like our kind of shorts," he said, as he wiped his eyes with some underwear.

Who's hot

The Philadelphia 76ers have won seven straight after starting the season 0-5 while playing without Allen Iverson and Aaron McKie. Both are back, and the Sixers look to be the class in the East with Milwaukee.

Who's not

Don't look too far from home. Right down I-95, in fact, could be the worst team east of Chicago. The 3-9 Wizards had lost eight straight before beating Boston at the MCI Center last night. A loss to the Celtics would have given the franchise its worst 12-game start since the 1966-67 Baltimore Bullets were 2-10.

Compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.

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