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NBA PM: Duncan Still Dominates in Old Age
Posted By Alex Kennedy On June 6, 2013 @ 5:00 pm In NBA | No Comments
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Tim Duncan Still Dominates in Old Age
Tim Duncan remembers when he was the young one in the locker room, making fun of San Antonio Spurs veterans like David Robinson, Terry Porter and Jerome Kersey for being old. Duncan and his teammates would crack jokes and exaggerate their age, but Robinson, Porter and Kersey were always good sports.
Now, Duncan finds himself on the other end of the ribbing. At 37 years old, Duncan is in the twilight of his career, which is something that his teammates remind him of on a daily basis. Matt Bonner jokes that he’s “senile” and Manu Ginobili describes him as “a wise old man.” Even Duncan’s 64-year-old head coach Gregg Popovich gets in on the fun.
Last March, Popovich was giving Duncan a game off to rest him during the regular season. While he could have made up an ailment, Popovich instead submitted “Did Not Dress – Old” for Duncan. The box score made the rounds on the internet, first thought to be a prank by whoever entered the information on NBA.com until Popovich owned up to it after the game. But like Robinson, Porter and Kersey, Duncan has been a good sport. He has gotten used to the jokes about his age, and he finds most of them hilarious.
“He loved it,” Popovich said of the box score. “He thought it was funny as hell. There were some others who did not enjoy it, but Timmy got a kick out of it and I got a kick out of it. It was fun, and it was true. He’s older than dirt. That’s the deal. He was tired that night. He’s old. I could have lied. I could have said he has a broken ankle or something. I just said he’s old.”
“I think it’s funny,” Duncan said. “I’m still playing well, so I’ll take it as it comes.”
As Duncan points out, even though he may be an old man by NBA standards, he’s still one of the most productive players in the league. This year, he was once again named to the All-NBA First Team after a five-year drought as he has had one of the best seasons of his career, averaging 17.8 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. His numbers are up across the board from recent years and his blocks average is almost a career-high.
It’s much easier for Duncan to laugh off those jokes about his age when he’s still producing at a high level and leading the Spurs to success. He may be 37, but he doesn’t show it on the court. He still swats shots at the rim, scores in the paint and runs the floor better than most big men. While Duncan points out that he can’t dunk the ball as much as he used to, he’s still able to impact a game as much as anyone because of the adjustments he has made and the hard work he has put in every offseason. In recent years, Duncan has lost 25 lbs. to remain spry and continues to adapt his game.
“I think the adjustments come in the summer more than anything else, doing things a little more differently,” Duncan said. “Obviously, trying to get my weight down was a big one for me, playing a little less in the summertime, so I have a little less stress on my knees come season time, and then Pop has made all the other adjustments for me basically, whether I like it or not. My minutes are down. Every once in a while, whether healthy or not, I have a couple of games off. I don’t play in many back‑to‑backs. Things like that, things that were really wearing my body all season.
“I’ve worked hard over the last couple of years to get myself back to where I feel that I could be relevant and be a very good player and help my team get to this point. To have done all that and to be back here now and to be playing well and with a chance to win another championship, all that stuff together, it means a tremendous amount to me.”
“Timmy, he’s a consummate pro,” Popovich added. “He takes great pride in fulfilling his responsibility to his teammates. He feels it very strongly. It’s just a personal character quality that he has. It’s as simple as that. He works himself hard all summer long. He’s got high standards. He wants to participate and compete at a high level, and he has the discipline to do it. It’s about character, and he’s got it.”
Duncan is playing in the 2013 NBA Finals, with the chance to win his fifth championship. He also has the chance to further cement his legacy as one of the greatest players in league history, but that’s not something that he focuses on. He has never worried about that stuff, and that won’t change now.
“I don’t want him to sound disrespectful,” Popovich said. “He has great respect for those that have come before him, and he loves the game, but as far as personal accolades or legacy, it doesn’t even enter his mind very honestly. That’s not disrespectful to basketball. It’s who he is. He plays the game, he enjoys the game and respects it. But anything that’s put towards him in an accolades sort of way, that’s not something he spends any time thinking about. I guarantee it.”
“It will be something great to look back on and to look at when I’m done, but in the heat of things, as I go through my career and through these games, that’s just not anything I ever look up or think about or anything else,” Duncan said. “Will it matter at some point? Maybe it will, but I have nothing to do with how people see me at that point. I’m just here to enjoy it and do the best I can.”
Despite their jokes, Duncan’s teammates in San Antonio have a lot of respect for him because he has been one of the most consistent players in the league for as long as they can remember. They know he’s going to perform at a high level on a nightly basis and help them win games. Tony Parker has been around Duncan for his entire career, and he has tried to learn as much as he can from him and follow in his footsteps.
“It’s unbelievable what he’s doing at his age,” Parker said. “I think the number one thing is the way he take care of his body. He did a lot of different stuff the last couple of years, because he wanted to finish strong. This year he’s playing at a very, very high level. It’s a great example for me to follow, because everything that he won, as a team and as a player, to stay motivated and to keep playing at a high level, that’s very hard to do. Like mentally, to stay motivated is unbelievable. And so for me, like I said, it’s a great example to follow and he’s a great leader.”
Duncan is arguably the greatest player of his generation. The Spurs have made the playoffs in every year of Duncan’s career and have won 50 games in every full season. Duncan and San Antonio have had the kind of sustainable success that is extremely rare in professional sports. Because of this, players around the league marvel at Duncan and how he has been able to be so good for so long.
“I think it’s him staying in shape, his conditioning level,” Miami HEAT superstar LeBron James said. “I think it’s the great support that they have in San Antonio. Also, I think it’s him being a true professional to the game, giving everything to the game. And when you give everything to the game, the game rewards you. I think it’s all of that. He’s a champion. He has championship DNA. And like I said, when you give everything to the game, as far as, you know, sacrifices that you make, the game repays you. It has allowed him to continue to play at a high level, even at his age.
“He’s probably one of the best players to ever play the game of basketball. If I just look at the last 15 years, he’s probably been the most consistent, most dominant player that we’ve had as far as 15 years all together. He’s won four titles, multiple All Stars, MVP, and so on and so on. I think he doesn’t get a lot of recognition because he’s not flashy like a lot of guys are. He’s not jumping over people and high‑flying and doing the things that attracts people to the game. But I think true basketball, true IQ people and players know how great he is. What else can you say?”
Duncan hasn’t captured the attention of the nation because most fans find him to be boring. Perhaps it’s because it’s always the same story with him. Year after year, he produces, leads and, ultimately, wins.
Adonal Foyle Staying Busy
Last year, the Dwight Howard situation with the Orlando Magic was hard to watch. It made headlines for all of the wrong reasons and there was so much drama that it was dubbed the “Dwightmare” by those who covered it. It didn’t seem like a fun time to be involved with the Magic, especially as a front office executive who had to deal with that drama on a daily basis. However, Adonal Foyle, who was the Magic’s director of player development for two years, says that he had fun during that crazy season.
“I actually loved it,” Foyle said with a laugh in a phone interview with HOOPSWORLD. “I think people would be surprised by how much stuff like that happens on a daily basis. I think the only difference in this instance is that it was public. I mean, I’ve seen coaches get choked and everything. There’s not much that can happen in the context of sports that I haven’t seen at some point in my career. But when it is public, that does give it a different dimension and it does make it a little bit more difficult because you have to manage not only the media and the scrutiny of that, but also the players and the morale of the organization. I mean, it’s fun. I think people love sports because it’s raw and because you get to see unscripted things. You plan for the games and you plan for the best outcomes, but personalities are going to clash when you have 15 people on a team and coaches and a general manager and executives. Everybody has to be on the same page because if you’re not, there’s going to be uncertainty and a lot of anger going around, and then it becomes about how you manage that.”
After the season, the Magic parted ways with just about every member of their front office and brought in a new regime led by new general manager Rob Hennigan. Foyle enjoyed his two years in Orlando and would love to eventually get back into a front office position, perhaps becoming a general manager himself.
“If the opportunity presents itself, I’d like to evaluate it and figure out if it’s something that I would like to do,” Foyle said. “Obviously, as I said, basketball is part of who I am and I like that. If there was an opportunity to do that, I’d definitely look into it.”
Even though Foyle lost his job to Hennigan and his staff, he’s still rooting for the Magic so that the fans in Orlando have something to be excited about.
“I thought the team played, at times, very well,” Foyle said of the Magic. “They have a young team and they have obviously decided to go with the strategy of rebuilding through the draft. If every team could rebuild and be like Oklahoma City, then all would be well. If they end up having a team like Oklahoma City, that would be spectacular for the people of Orlando. They’re a great bunch of fans and I’ve enjoyed myself there. I wish them luck with what they’re doing. I think only time will tell with how their team will do.”
Lately, Foyle has been staying busy with a number of projects. He has been serving as an analyst for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, breaking down the NBA playoffs. Foyle enjoyed being inside a front office, but he has also enjoyed being outside of the game and analyzing it. He has also released a children’s book and has been doing some events for his foundation, including a golf tournament in the Bay Area.
“I just love basketball,” Foyle said. “I think just being around the game is fun, no matter how I do that. As an executives, it’s much more hands on and you know a lot more of what’s going on. You have an opportunity to shape and change the culture of an organization. As an analyst, when you’re on radio or television, it’s about just really looking at the game from a different perspective. You’re looking at it as an outsider and really just trying to see it differently and make judgments and comparisons. It’s different because you’re watching and trying to decipher why they made certain decisions, why they chose to do this thing versus that thing. Its kind more of a guessing game because you don’t know exactly what’s going on, but you’re trying to find out with the rest of the audience. It’s a lot of fun. As long as I’m around basketball, it’s fun.”
Foyle’s children’s book is titled “Too Tall Foyle Finds His Game” and it’ll be part of a series of “Too Tall Foyle” books. The books are based on Foyle’s life and his career and he’s excited to be able to tell his story to children.
“I’ve been working with kids pretty much my whole life through both of my foundations,” Foyle said. “One of the things that I really enjoyed when I first got into the NBA was a ‘Reading is Fundamental’ program. I went out and did a lot of reading to kids. I felt that was one of the most important things that you can pass down to a kid at an early age, fostering the desire to read and learn. As I continued to work with my camp, I wanted to start telling my story so ‘Too Tall Foyle’ is really an autobiographical sketch about failing a few times before finding success, about the journey of playing many different sports and then ultimately, hopefully, finding something that you truly love and are passionate about. It’s really to teach kids the importance of finding themselves and finding what they love to do. ‘Too Tall Foyle’ is going to be a series that basically follows my life from the Caribbean all the way to the NBA and it’ll be about persevering, handling adversity and other lessons that kids need to learn as they find their path in life.”
Foyle will continue serving as an analyst for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, appearing on television and radio broadcasts to break down the NBA Finals. Foyle is looking forward to the series between the Miami HEAT and San Antonio Spurs, and believes that the Spurs may be able to take down the reigning champions.
“If you had asked me three weeks ago, I would have said Miami and I still think that Miami could win, but it’s one of those things where San Antonio has been a savvy veteran team and they’re a team that you have to beat because they don’t beat themselves,” Foyle said. “I said the same thing when they were playing the Golden State Warriors. They don’t make a lot of mistakes and they play within themselves. They have a great general in Gregg Popovich and he’s always looking at the long-term strategy. It’s going to be an interesting series, especially now that they’ve had so much time to heal and rest up while Indiana and Miami were beating each other up. It’s going to be an interesting series. My hope is that it’s a great series and it would be great to have a seven-game Finals series. As a fan, which many of us are in the media, we just want to see a great game of basketball. If we can get seven great games of basketball, who cares who wins?”
Foyle is one of the most interesting and intelligent players in the NBA, and he’ll continue to be around the game of basketball in some capacity for many years.
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