Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A player with an innate understanding of spatial relationships

Read where 12-year NBA veteran Tim Duncan recently played in his 1000th NBA game for the Spurs.

But as this writer describes, because of Duncan's fly-below-the-radar persona and focus on fundamentals, there's not much new to say about the former Wake Forest star.

"It's like figuring out something new to say about the Grand Canyon, the Mississippi River or the Sphinx (at least when the great stone critter isn't whining over a referee's whistle). As in: It's, uh, still there.. And, y'know, still great."

MIN coach Kevin McHale contends that, among the NBA's current big men, Duncan is "by far the best.'' And much of his success, argues McHale, has to do with Duncan's basketball IQ.

"He's smart. He doesn't run around. No wasted energy. Things I'm trying to get our guys to do -- basketball's a game of read-and-react. Especially with young guys, they want to 'run' the offense. But the offense doesn't score -- the read inside the offense does. Things happen, Tim just stands there and goes [McHale very slowly looks left, very slowly looks right]. Then he moves into the open spot.

Believe it or not, that's how everybody played. You didn't run on top of each other. You gave everybody space. He's different because, right now, for whatever reason -- either how the game is taught or how the young guys play in AAU or whatever -- it's, 'We're going to go as fast as we can, run around as fast as we possibly can.'

He just takes his time. Let the defense make mistakes.''

Duncan, a 10-time All-Star and two-time league MVP, is the first to admit that he's not a flashy, super-athletic player who's going to make SportsCenter highlights very often.

"I'm not a quick guy. I've never been the most athletic guy. I'm not as quick, I don't jump as high, all that stuff. So [it has taken] a conscious decision about playing harder, positioning better, getting to spots, getting your feet set, giving yourself another half second to react to something, things like that. If I can slow it down, take my time and go to my own strengths, I can neutralize a lot of what people are able to do against me. You try to make people react to you more than you react to people. When you can do that, you're the one in control. You know what's going on and everyone else has to figure it out on the fly. I try to base my game around that. That's how I've always played.''

According to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, Duncan has "an innate understanding of the game and spatial relationships, what teammates are going to do and what's needed at a certain time. Never in a hurry. Always a patient, skillful player who understands the situation. He's a throwback."