Charlotte Hornets veteran point guard Tony Parker doesn't think that his former franchise - the San Antonio Spurs - took his potential departure over the offseason seriously. Parker played the first 17 years of his career under the tutelage of Gregg Popovich with the Spurs and he helped lead them to four NBA titles during his time with the team. He signed a two-year deal worth $10 million with the Hornets in July.
"They really didn't take me seriously that I was going to leave," Parker said of the Spurs, via ESPN. "... I think they really didn't believe I was gonna leave anyway. I think they thought I'd be like Manu and just stay."
Parker will make his return to San Antonio as a member of the Hornets on Monday night, (8:30 p.m. ET -- Watch on FuboTV with NBATV add-on), and even though he will be wearing a different uniform, his impact is still felt throughout the Spurs organization.
"I think it's more difficult not having him with us every day than it was to see him make a decision he felt was right for him," Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said. "And I think all of us respected him too much to not honor his goals. We miss Tony because it's the first time in many years he hasn't been a big influence in our program. You don't lose those kinds of influences without them having an impact."
Parker didn't necessarily want to leave the Spurs, but a larger role in Charlotte was ultimately too enticing of an opportunity for the veteran guard to pass up. Telling coach Popovich of his decision to move on with his career was extremely difficult for Parker.
"That was tough," Parker says of telling Popovich. "Like, it was kind of shaky, his voice. But I was like, 'You know, Pop, I love you. And I will always love the Spurs. But I just can't do it because I don't think I'm done, and I don't think this is the right opportunity. I don't want to finish being on the bench and not playing.'"
Plus, playing for the Hornets provided a new and different opportunity for Parker.
"I just wanted to do something different, experience something new," Parker said of his decision to sign with the Spurs in September. "I've been with the Spurs for a long time – 17 years. I just wanted to – I know it sounds simple – but I just wanted to see something else - go to the East Coast and go do something else in the NBA. I did everything I wanted to accomplish with the Spurs. They've been amazing to me, but I just felt it was time to go another direction."
Ultimately though, Parker has no regrets, and his former franchise will always hold a special place in his heart.
"But I'm not the type of guy who regrets," Parker said. "I will always love the Spurs."
Parker left a lasting legacy in San Antonio, and it is safe to assume that his number nine jersey will ultimately be retired by the organization.