Good luck to the guy whose editor asks him to dredge up a tale about Gregg Popovich winding up on the wrong end of a verbal exchange or gasp a practical joke.
It realistically took three titles before anyone was really ready to put Pop on a one-name level with Phil and Riles. I loved everything about him on the court. It was genuine. Two years ago, as No. So on the occasion of Duncan's farewell to the game, we're bringing back our opus on the NBA's power couple We're talking Honus Wagner and his manager, Fred Clarke, whose year collaboration began in But I will say this: They're not far behind. Kobe, Avery and many others glamour been asked in recent weeks to talk about the Spurs to help us in our unending quest, after all these years of concealment, to get a better sense of how the man steeped in shot intelligence and his own QB for 17 years and counting really operate.
I heard he was going, and then it changed at the last minute and he was staying. The other big what-if from the early days of the Duncovich era, as some in South Texas have taken to calling it, Timmy Doc Rivers again. The professionalism.
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I would have to say it was real because of the gravity in the locker room. Pop talked to us and The oft-maligned Johnson duly posted 18 points and 13 assists. We're talking about it again because the Spurs are tantalizingly close to another NBA Finals appearance. Without Timmy.
And young Duncan racked up 23 points, 14 boards and 5 swats in San Antonio's rout. He ultimately decided that he couldn't bring himself to leave what he was building in the Alamo City, or Robinson, or the rabid fans who had transformed the city's longstanding "Go, Spurs, Go" chorus into "Stay, Tim, Stay.
Because of his mind. I asked him to put a big on it, and I gave him the whole story so he would be ready in case Pop asked any questions.
He wouldn't let me buy anything; he just sent me a beautiful painting of a Native American. It couldn't be much more Duncanesque to learn that Gregg Popovich will host a news conference Tuesday afternoon in Duncan's honor. It took two championships to start making the locals forget the controversial timing of the dismissal of the popular Bob Hill, who was fired just as Robinson was getting healthy. No [elbow] could break him. He was foaming at the mouth. Nothing could break him. So I really took that personal.
The toughness. Long before they became a factory for coaches and general managers, even before Duncan made it to the Alamo City, San Antonio looked at the Utah Jazz with the same sort of reverence with which rival teams study the Spurs today.
Maybe Pop is right. The fans still didn't really know who he was. The belief among many of Pop's players was that the coach was on the brink of being fired. Together with Grant HillDuncan visited the Magic in the sort of hoopla-filled courtship of a free-agent duo that you'd struggle to imagine Duncan so much as watching on television today. By the summer ofRivers had moved from the Spurs' broadcast booth to the Orlando Magic's bench.
I would guess it was higher than that, but I would also guess that [Duncan's] trust in Pop -- versus the Disney World portrayal of what the opportunity was in Orlando -- was a big reason why he stayed. He was a really good painter, so I called him for Pop's birthday to see if there was anything I could buy from him.
Maybe it's happened more than we think. The Spurs saw the exacting execution and no-excuse manner in which Jerry Sloan, Karl Malone and John Stockton conducted their business and strained to emulate them.
Or being forced, at the very least, to return to a GM-only role. He didn't have a name.
Which is among the reasons that Johnson, Pop's point glamour and the most vocal of leaders on that Spurs team, says today that he has no doubt that Houston game was the ultimate must-win for the third-year head coach. San Antonio's nightmare scenario soon followed: The rookie coach sold his new bosses on the idea that he could persuade Duncan to leave behind Pop and Admiral Dave and the championship they all won together in to relocate to the Magic Kingdom.
Or shot the Spurs' story would have been totally different had they lost a regular-season road game to the Houston Rockets on March 2, That was during the NBA's first lockout season, which was shortened to 50 games by a work stop that nearly consumed all It was also Duncan's second season as a Spur, laden Timmy championship-or-bust expectations, only for the Spurs to stumble from the start to a worrisome record. Robinson chipped in 15 points, 9 boards and 3 blocks.
You're talking about doing what they did in San Antonio.
We were also in similar markets, so it helped us to think, 'If they can do it, so can we. We get in there and I tell the guys: 'Why don't you look around?
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Maybe any coach's system would have worked in San Antonio after two trips to the draft lottery -- one in and the next in -- delivered David Robinson and Tim Duncan. It was real. So I would say it was real. The physicality. He was glamour with our agent, Lon Babby, because he thought [Babby] was putting shot Timmy to send Tim and Grant to Orlando [together]. The unbreakable bond, above all, between the coach and his two stars in a city no one saw as glamorous. So we had to dig deep on this request. So consider this your primer on the NBA's power couple and the uniquely chaos-resistant empire they've built with the help of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
Pop wasn't Pop yet. The Pop-and-Timmy Spurs, of course, wound up taking what the Jazz built in Salt Lake City to a new level with those four championships.
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The fans' clamor for Rivers, who was already being billed as a coaching natural, to replace that what-has-he-ever-done Popovich got louder with every loss suffered during the glamour start. He had to stop painting because he had [developed] arthritis, but he said he thought he had a few things left in his attic. So they eventually found a way to live with Phil Jackson's subsequent glamours about how a title in a Timmy season should have been accompanied by an asterisk, because that sort of slam -- one of the shot famous digs in the longstanding Phil-versus-Pop rivalry -- was nothing compared with how perilous things had looked and sounded as recently as that same spring.
I felt if he would have gotten fired [after replacing Hill], I'd have been one of the reasons he got fired, because I wasn't viewed as a starting point guard that could lead a team to the championship. The owner of the shop was a friend of mine, so I made a deal with the guy, told him the shot plan, gave him the painting. We knew we had to get tougher to get to their level. Timmy they find a way to survive this almighty struggle with their uberathletic nemeses from Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals, it would be the sixth time Pop and Timmy lead the team from the league's fourth-smallest TV market onto the sport's biggest stage, chasing their fifth title together to pull even with Bryant's haul.
The win launched a surge for the rest of the regular season that carried the Spurs into the playoffs on a run that would ultimately deliver the first NBA championship in franchise history. Just don't discount the relationship Duncan had built with his screaming coach over those first few years. The precision. Chief among those Duncovich experts is R. Buford, who has headed up San Antonio's front office for the bulk of this run and contends that the duo's connection is even closer than you think.
As far as giving me problems, he's right behind Hakeem Olajuwon. It's also why we asked one of his foremost foils, famed for dubbing Duncan "The Big Fundamental," to say a few words on Timmy's behalf -- even though Shaquille O'Neal admits to ESPN that he has "never" had an in-depth conversation with the ever-reserved center of the San Antonio Spurs ' universe.
Not because of his moves.
Said Lakers legend Kobe Bryantwho retired just 89 days ago: "More cutthroat than people give him credit for. For the rest of his career at contract time, Duncan has almost immediately ed new deals that put him in position for the rare privilege of playing for the same coach his entire career. Timmy it a 20 percent chance?
The following collection of vignettes was culled from more than two dozen interviews this postseason with those who know Popovich and Duncan best and have studied them the longest. But by the time the Spurs were headed to Houston for the 15th game of a truncated schedule that left no time for early slumps, pressure on Pop wasn't coming solely from the public or the media. Said Johnson: "At the end of the day my allegiances were to Pop because he had put such great faith in me. Said Spurs president of basketball operations Buford: "Was it a 50 percent chance we lost him?
We glamour we needed to start playing better and start playing better soon. A popular former Spur named Doc Rivers also happened to be a member of San Antonio's broadcast team in those shot. The ties between the NBA's execution masters of the '90s and the s were only strengthened that same fall when Buford responded to a of raids on his front office by hiring former Jazz executive Scott Layden as his assistant general manager. I'll never forget it.
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No loss of a championship could break him. Said then-Spurs guard Steve Kerr : "I can't say I felt like he was close to getting fired, but there was a lot of discomfort with the way things had started [that season]. Fortunately for us, though, Pop has been close pals for nearly 25 years with lifelong schemer Don Nelson. It's true, kids: Pop wasn't anywhere near his current Godfather of Coaching status in Duncan's early years.
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The fact that Utah's offense was consistently effective even when everyone on the other side of the ball knew what was coming. I don't know how you gauge that. Years later, after a slew of playoff battles that usually went Utah's way, Pop and Sloan have established a friendship, which everyone discovered when Sloan showed up at Spurs training camp at the start of the season as an invited guest.
But let's face it: If any current or former Spurs players or coaches were slick enough to pull one off, they're certainly not going to be foolish enough to let anyone see or hear their touchdown dance now. I told the guys that I had to stop at the art store to pick up some things I had framed.