Tim Duncan spent his entire 19-year NBA career playing for one team in one city for one coach. His partnership with Gregg Popovich produced five NBA title, two MVPs, three Finals MVPs and 15 All-Star appearances.
Why was this duo so successful?
“Trust. Absolute trust,” Fox Sports Southwest Spurs sideline reporter Andrew Monaco said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “This doesn’t work in San Antonio if Tim doesn’t buy into Pop and Pop doesn’t trust Tim. Tim knew all along that Pop would put him in a position to succeed. Tim would understand that if Pop yelled at him, the rest of the players were then put it line. Pop didn’t do it just to do it. If Tim messed up, he got the heat from Pop as well, and then Pop knew that he was going to get absolutely everything from Tim. So from the managing minutes at the end of the career to running four-down – the isolation for Tim Duncan – to win games, it’s just that IQ that they both have and they both share. I know we talk so much about point guards being an extension of Pop on the floor, but for Pop, who always talk about corporate knowledge of an offense and a defense, Tim knew exactly where everyone was supposed to be and would you put in the correct position both offensively and defensively. I think it’s trust between the two.”
Duncan, 40, averaged 8.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 25.2 minutes per game this past season – all career-lows.
“Tim has always said if he wasn’t going to be able to contribute like he has in the past for the Spurs, that would play into his decision,” Monaco said. “I think (injuries) took its toll. The reason he’s been able to play until 40 is because of what he’s done in the offseason. I think now it’s time with his kids as they have gotten older. So I think a number of things go into this decision.”
Duncan retires as one of the greatest players – and one of the most reluctant superstars – in NBA history. As great as Duncan was on the floor for the last two decades, his personality remains a bit of a mystery.
Monaco, who has gotten to know Duncan quite well, called him “sarcastic.”
“A biting humor,” he said fondly. “And honestly, players love playing with him. They love being around him. Tim wasn’t standoffish when it came to the team. Tim did all the interviews with the national TV, whether it was ABC or NBC or TNT. Did that all the time – and at times would not do the interviews locally because of all the demands that were coming nationally. He was more of a national figure there for a while, but more private. He enjoyed the privacy and I think San Antonio was the perfect place because there’s the understanding of Spurs fans with Spurs players. He’s not going to get overrun in a restaurant or on the street. He would sign those autographs certainly, but there’s very much a biting humor and there’s very, very lasting friendships that Tim Duncan has, whether it is with Sean Elliott, who does our color, or Antonio Daniels, who still lives here who hasn’t been with the Spurs for awhile. Those relationships and that bond is because of the trust he’s always had with his teammates. But even though he was private, there was never a separation of Tim and the rest of the team. He was one of those Spurs for 19 years.”