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Evilmav2
10-30-2004, 07:46 AM
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Popovich pops off on contract

Web Posted: 10/30/2004 12:00 AM CDT

Johnny Ludden
Express-News Staff Writer

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Friday he is in disagreement with chairman Peter Holt's apparent refusal to increase the franchise's $64 million contract extension offer to Tony Parker.

Two days after Parker's agent said he was ending negotiations because of the Spurs' hard-line stance, Popovich said he made another unsuccessful attempt to get the team's owners to reconsider their position.

The Spurs have until Sunday to reach agreement with Parker or he will become a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

"At this particular point we've been told by ownership that they are not going to go beyond the number that's been offered to Tony, and I'm disappointed in that decision," Popovich said before the Spurs' 102-86 victory over New Orleans at the SBC Center in their preseason finale.

"I understand the reasons why and the concerns on the part of ownership, but at the same time over the years we've operated in the (fiscal) arena very successfully. I think Tony Parker has been very fair in understanding the situation and appreciating the situation he's in, while at the same time looking for a contract that shows him the respect that he deserves."

Holt could not be reached for comment.

Though Parker's agent, Marc Fleisher, has continued to seek a minimum of $70 million for the six-year extension, Parker has privately asked for $68 million while telling others he might settle for $66 million if the team compromised.

The Spurs' $64 million offer would be the third-largest contract in the franchise's history, but is substantially less than what some other members of Parker's rookie class recently received. Memphis forward Pau Gasol and Utah forward Andrei Kirilenko each have agreed to deals worth about $86 million, the maximum allowed under the league's collective bargaining agreement. New Jersey gave forward Richard Jefferson $76 million.

Said Popovich: "I have no problem with Tony's desires and wishes to this point."

Though Parker and the team do not appear to be too far apart on the financial terms of the contract, the franchise's ownership group thinks it might be able to get a better deal this summer when the league's bargaining agreement expires. NBA commissioner David Stern has said he wants to reduce the maximum length of guaranteed contracts in the new agreement. The league also is expected to try to reduce the maximum annual raise a player may receive. The players union likely will fight any significant changes depending on what concessions the league makes.

Fleisher said he thinks Parker will be able to command a maximum offer next summer. Though the Spurs would have the right to match any offer sheet Parker signs, Popovich and other management officials have told Holt they think it is probably more cost effective to do a deal now.

"If we don't do this contract, I feel there are probably only two choices next summer, all things being equal," Popovich said. "Either we're going to have to pay him considerably more or we're going to lose him. The chance of the rules changing in such a way that you end up paying him less is not realistic in today's world."

Popovich, who has maintained a lower profile in contract negotiations since R.C. Buford became general manager two years ago, has spoken frequently with Parker over the past few weeks, making sure to keep him updated about any significant changes in the talks.

"There's no arguing that anybody that has watched the kid play has got to believe he's in the top five, six, seven point guards in the league already," Popovich said. "And he's only going to rise in that crowd.

"Anyone who rates him lower is just looking at stats and doesn't really have an eye for who can play and who can't."

In recent seasons, the Spurs have ranked at or near the top of the league in payroll efficiency. After winning the NBA championship two seasons ago, they received a luxury-tax rebate check of about $13 million from the league because of their payroll's modest size. They received another similar rebate this summer.

Holt, however, has said in the past he does not want to have to pay the league's luxury tax, which currently assesses a dollar-for-dollar penalty to teams that greatly exceed the salary cap. The Spurs' payroll will start to escalate significantly in the coming years, particularly if Parker is re-signed.

The Spurs signed Tim Duncan to a seven-year, $122 million contract two summers ago. In July, they gave Manu Ginobili a six-year, $52 million deal.

Popovich wants to make sure Parker remains part of the team's core. He told Holt he thinks the team is making a mistake if it does not improve its current offer.

"I will certainly live with the decision," Popovich said. "Our ownership group has been and remains the best in the league, as far as I'm concerned. But I think it's important to ensure that we can keep this basketball team together."

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