Parks willing to grind more time on court to power TNT to Finals
There’s very little rest in between games inside the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) bubble. And it would make sense to manage players’ minutes during games.
But in the current Philippine Cup, TNT has thrown out new wisdom when it comes to Ray Parks Jr. TNT’s two-way star has seen the most minutes in this tournament so far averaging 41.12 minutes in an environment where players only enjoy two-day breaks at the most.But he’s not one to complain.
“This is all mental. My body may be broken but at the end of the day, it’s all mental,” Parks told the Inquirer on Thursday.
“It’s not an easy situation being in a bubble and playing these games, playing [a] hell [lot] of minutes,” he added. “I mean, we still got to do what we got to do.”
Parks made those remarks on the heels of a scintillating performance that kept TNT alive in their semifinal series against No. 2 Phoenix. He was the top scorer in TNT’s 102-101 escape from the Fuel Masters on Wednesday night at Angeles University Foundation.
The sweet-shooting second-generation PBA talent had 36 points built around a 5-for-8 conversion rate from long distance and a highly efficient 11-for-14 free throw clip.
And he doesn’t mind adding more minutes if it means TNT—one of the two clubs favored by many to win it all after San Miguel Beer’s unceremonious exit from the bubble— gets to Finals.
“We’re already sacrificing. We’re already here. So we have to take advantage of this opportunity,” he said. “Not a lot of people have this opportunity—that we’re able to play the game that we love.”
“So it’s more of that: fighting through whatever pain. Nobody knows what anybody’s going through or like my aches and pains. But hey, we’ll fight through that. It really doesn’t matter when we get on the court,” he added.
There was a touch of drama and emotion on Parks’ finest scoring performance in the playoffs: It came on the eve of the birthday of his late father, PBA great and seven-time best import awardee Bobby Ray.
“He’s always watching over me,” he said with a noticeable smile underneath a face mask.
But more palpable was the touch of urgency. On the brink of elimination, Parks willed this talent-laden and expensive TNT roster to the precipice of a PBA Finals appearance.
He almost singlehandedly butchered a last-ditch attack by Phoenix in the stretch and won an old-school shootout with fellow national team gunner Matthew Wright.
“Matthew’s such a talented player. A great shooter, great guy on and off the court. He has that dog in him,” he said. “I love going up against him. He makes me better, I make him better.”
Parks, however, was quick to note that the strides TNT has made thus far is all thanks to a collective showing.
And within that emphasis was a promise.
“We’re still fighting,” he said. “We still got a lot more to show.”
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