Last season endedprematurely for the Spurs, who lost in the conference semifinals to theMavericks, but it gave forward Tim Duncan time for some much-needed rest. Byplaying in the Finals in 2005 and '03, in the Summer Olympics in 2004 and inthe 2003 FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament, Duncan has been pulling much morethan regular-season duty since he entered the league in 1997.
So how did the7-foot Duncan spend his first real summer vacation in four years? After restinghis right foot, which had been hindered all last season by plantar fasciitis,he hit the track and the weight room to add extra muscle to his legs and core."I was really light last year," he says. Any other reason? "I hadmore time."
Duncan, 30, hasmissed 29 games because of ankle and knee injuries in the last three years,after sitting out only nine in the previous six. After averaging career lows inpoints per game (18.6) and rebounds (11.0) last season, Duncan, a power forwardfor most of his career, will now have to bang away for even more minutes in themiddle, where free-agent signees Francisco Elson and Jackie Butler replace NazrMohammed and Rasho Nesterovic. "I've been asked, 'What are you going to dofor a center?'" says San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. "But anybody whohas watched our team realizes that in the fourth quarter, Tim Duncan is thefive."
A nine-timeAll-Star, Duncan will again be asked to carry the Spurs on his back. Is hefresh and fit enough to carry them to their customary heights?
ProjectedStarting Lineup with 2005--06 statistics
Record: 63--19(1st in West)
Points scored:95.6 (21st in NBA)
Points allowed:88.8 (2nd)
(11th season withthe Spurs)
|G||MICHAEL FINLEY||10.1 ppg||3.2 rpg||1.5 apg||41.2 FG%||39.4 3FG%|
|G-F||BRENT BARRY||5.8 ppg||2.1 rpg||1.7 apg||0.53 spg||45.2 FG%|
|F||MATT BONNER*||7.5 ppg||3.6 rpg||0.63 spg||44.8 FG%||82.9 FT%|
|F-C||JACKIE BUTLER*||5.3 ppg||3.3 rpg||0.56 bpg||54.4 FG%||75.3 FT%|
|F||ROBERT HORRY||5.1 ppg||3.8 rpg||0.81 bpg||0.68 spg||38.4 FG%|
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Spurs
Even though theyhave one of the league's best big men in Tim Duncan, they realize that postguys are becoming less dominant. Rather than emphasizing post-ups to their bigmen, they've become a drive-and-kick team that puts pressure on defenses torotate and keep up with them.... We fear Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili 10 timesmore than we do Duncan because the way the rules are structured now, you can'tstop penetration, and both of those guys are great drivers. They can also kickit out to any number of players who are very dangerous from the perimeter....Everybody knows that you need to take away Ginobili's left hand: You hear teamsyelling, "Weak! Weak!" to force him to drive with his right. But whenyou shade him to drive that way you invariably overplay it, and he crosses overto finish with his left.... Parker is more consistent and confident, and he'sno longer fearful or hesitant with his shot. He still gets a little wild attimes, but that's a small price to pay for what he gives you. He's alwaysattacking in transition, which wears down opposing point guards.
Tim Duncan had the third 40-point, 15-rebound Game 7 in history, going for 41and 15 in a loss to the Mavericks in the conference semis. (Elgin Baylor andCharles Barkley had the others.)