Fitting tribute to Tim Duncan

FRANK ZICARERLLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:58 PM ET

LOS ANGELES — The coaches voted him in and his coach made him a starter for Sunday’s all-star game.

LOS ANGELES — The Hall of Fame will one day open its doors for Tim Duncan, one of the game’s few remaining big men capable of playing with his back to the basket.

Duncan is no longer the focal point on his team and many here at all-star weekend have made a point of dissing Duncan’s presence in the mid-season showcase, his 13th in a career highlighted by four championship rings.

When the East and West teams gathered for a make-shift practice on Saturday, the atmosphere was relaxed, half-court sets featuring the basic pick-and-roll sequence were getting ironed out.

With so much talent on display, coaching becomes an afterthought until a late-game situation arises that demands one guy gets the ball in his hands and is asked to make a play.

Tim Duncan won’t be that guy where the offence runs through him, but this weekend provides one final chance to celebrate the Big Fundamental.

Given his advanced age and how the Spurs have relied on Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to post an NBA-high 46 wins at the break, the end is in sight for Duncan.

He’s far from done, but Duncan is no longer among the game’s elite, a cog in the paint whose most meaningful impact won’t be measured until the post-season.

With the game evolving into a perimeter-happy, athletic-first approach, it may taken an entire generation for the next Tim Duncan to come along, if that.

Today’s generation of ballers aren’t concerned with drop steps or bank shots as they are more fixated on dunks and heaving three-pointers.

Duncan’s personality doesn’t lend itself to colourful quotes, his style on the court effortless and efficient, his game based entirely on positioning and fundamentals, hence the moniker.

“It’s totally appropriate and it’s obvious he should be the starter,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. “I don’t have any problem with it.”

The old-school Pops, whose method complements Duncan’s old-school game, will coach the Western team.

Popovich could have bowed to popularity in naming Pau Gasol, the game’s most skilled big man, as Yao Ming’s replacement, but instead went with Duncan, a choice that is more a testament to Duncan’s place in the game.

It was Pop’s prerogative and while it’s not popular, it is worthy because one never knows when Duncan will be back on this stage again, if ever.

“If there’s someone who deserves that (starting) spot, it’s T.D.,” Ginobili said of Duncan.

For Duncan, Sunday will mark his 13th all-star appearance and 12th as a starter.

At 34, Duncan is the senior statesman on the West team.

“A lot of the best teams in the league right now have an older core,” Duncan said. “If we’re healthy enough and we’re able to stay healthy, I think we have a good chance to be a contender.

“We’ve been blessed enough to be healthy with our starting lineup, the core of our team, and it’s shown. We went through a bit of a rough one last year, but we had a lot of the same core guys and that experience is paying off a bunch right now ... I feel as healthy as I have been in years.”

Which is why a healthy Duncan gives the Spurs a legitimate chance of winning a championship.

San Antonio has taken advantage of its depth, by giving fewer touches to Duncan and by playing a more uptempo game Popovich knew he had to embrace following last spring’s flameout.

“All we ever worry about are the chances in front of us,’’ Duncan said. “We’re not worrying about the future or the past. It’s about this year and we’re playing great. It’s the opportunity we have to focus on right now.”


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