Duncan’s Calm Belies Confidence
Posted Jun 6 2007 7:01PM
SAN ANTONIO, June 6 (AP) -- Tim Duncan lumbered up the steps to the podium, then San Antonio's subtle superstar plopped down in a chair, ready to take questions from the eager international media.
If Duncan didn't look excited, well that's because he rarely does.
For him, the NBA finals are almost routine, and instead of talking about the game, he'd rather play it.
Duncan is going for his fourth NBA title in nine seasons and could be on his way to a fourth finals MVP. And this time around, the San Antonio Spurs' quiet constant is playing the foil to the Cleveland Cavaliers' flashy LeBron James.
"It's a different style. Two opposites, I want to say,'' the Spurs' Tony Parker said Wednesday. "Two different superstars, but at the same time, two very effective players. And so it's going to be a very good matchup.''
It would be easy for the nine-time All-Star to have a big head after all these years, for him to note the playoff inexperience of James and his fellow Cavaliers heading into Game 1 on Thursday night. But Duncan is liberal with praise for others, including James, whom he called "absolutely impressive.'' Asked about himself, he's decidedly humble, almost to a fault.
"I am what I am. I don't know how else to explain it,'' Duncan said. "I've been the same way all my life, and it is what it is. But if you've got some endorsements out there that you can throw my way, I'll take them.''
But lots of high-profile endorsements just aren't the low-profile Duncan's style. He's more soft-spoken than his 6 feet, 11 inches and 260 pounds would suggest. He's not selfish with the ball on the court, and doesn't hog the praise off of it.
Coach Gregg Popovich often says that everything on the team begins with Duncan and credits him with the Spurs' emotional stability.
"He's got a pretty even-keeled approach to most things. And I think that the team follows suit,'' Popovich said. "I just do whatever Tim wants me to do.''
Even now, with the emerging James in his first finals, Duncan shuns any flattering comparisons between the 23-year-old Duncan of 1999, when the Spurs won their first championship, to the 22-year-old James of now.
"I cannot relate to him in any way, honestly. I was in a much different situation. I was on a veteran squad and I was more of a piece of the puzzle. I think he's a much bigger piece of this puzzle,'' Duncan said. "They're asking him to do a lot more.''
James' responsibility is heightened by the fact that it's Cleveland's first finals trip and he is the face of the team.
For the Spurs, on the other hand, trips to the finals are becoming old hat. Besides 1999, they won it all in 2003 and 2005. Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili have been together for the last two title runs.
"We're not worried about who gets the hype or what gets the hype, we're about winning four games,'' Duncan said.
Ask several people what makes Duncan so impressive, and the answers will vary. But they'll all center on his consistency and patience throughout hundreds of games and 10 seasons, all of them with the Spurs. Duncan, like James, was picked No. 1 in the draft.
"He's got a sense of poise and pace about him where he never looks rattled,'' said Cleveland coach Mike Brown, who was an assistant under Popovich for three seasons in San Antonio. "When you watch a guy that never gets rattled or is not emotional, it's scary because whether they're up 20, down 20, you don't think they're ever out of the game because he's just steady. He's going to keep coming, keep coming, keep coming.''
Popovich thinks some of Duncan's steadiness comes from studying under former San Antonio star David Robinson, who guided Duncan and the Spurs until his retirement after the 2002-03 season.
"Timmy began with great character. It wasn't like this was a troubled child that was brought in or anything like that,'' Popovich said. "But just to have (Robinson) as a role model helped Timmy understand what it meant to have that responsibility, to show that kind of leadership once the team was turned over to him.''
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