NEW YORK — Tim Duncan’s first All-Star Game was as a rookie in 1998 when the game was held at Madison Square Garden and he scored two points and had 10 rebounds in 14 minutes.
It was held at a time when Michael Jordan was exiting the league, though he returned three years later with the Washington Wizards. It was also held at the same time as Kobe Bryant’s arrival when he led the West with 18 points.
Seventeen years later, Duncan has returned as a 15-time All-Star. It’s a feat only matched by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who played in 18 games. Duncan’s All-Star resume includes winning co-MVP in 2001 and scoring 24 points on 12-of-14 shooting in the 2000 game.
While historically the amount of appearances are a big deal, the usually stoic Duncan didn’t make much of it when he spoke about playing in New York or coming full circle on Friday.
“I don’t know if it was that much different,” Duncan said. “It was a whole other cast and crew. I’m the original one left.”
That’s true. In his first NBA All-Star game, Kevin Garnett and Bryant were starters for the West. Garnett is possibly in his last NBA season, and Bryant is injured for the second straight season.
Of course, the media stuff or the overcrowded aspect of throngs of microphones and recorders are things Duncan could do without, especially when the league issues 1,800 media credentials for the All-Star weekend. He gets asked questions from an intern from the Late Show with David Letterman or asked about his dunking, which he no longer does.
“I enjoy the game, all the rest of the stuff I can do without,” Duncan said. “I don’t like this whole situation, but it is what it is, it’s what comes with the game.”
This year Duncan was selected by the coaches as a reserve. He didn’t expect to be here but even as he fielded the typical goofy questions during All-Star weekend, he still enjoys being here after all these years.
“I didn’t expect to be here,” Duncan said. “I’m going to be honest with you, but it’s an honor to be here, especially selected by the coaches. For them believing that I’m of All-Star caliber and that I deserve to be here (is big) so it’s just an honor.”
He is a five-time champion, averaging 14.5 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks, and there’s little doubt how he is regarded among his peers.
“He’s the greatest of all time,” Miami forward Chris Bosh said. “Just him being able to transform his game, I don’t really know how — I thought he was going to — every time you think he’s going to play — he’s an All Star. I don’t get it. I don’t think I’m going to be able to do that. But just to show his commitment to the team, what he’s done with his body to make sure he can continue to play and have this longevity that he’s had is truly amazing.”
He may be understated and underrated by those outside the game. Those within the game know differently.
“Not by the people in the business,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said of his former teammate. “Everybody that I hear on TV, they always say Tim is a top-five player of all time. But he doesn’t have the same sort of reputation, I guess, as Magic or Michael or Larry, because he’s so low-key. The charisma that those guys had and all the endorsements and everything else made them sort of global icons. Tim prefers to go about his business and play hoop.”
Leftovers from commissioner Adam Silver’s state of the league address:
Besides discussing the concept of “cap smoothing” when the new television deal starts in 2017, scheduling improvements to minimize back-to-back games and possible tweaks to the playoff format, commissioner Adam Silver also addressed some other topics Saturday night.
On the looming sale of the Atlanta Hawks, Silver said:
“There are two investment banks that have (been) engaged by the owners of the team. It’s a very deliberate methodical process. They produce in essence a sales book that has data on the team. Groups look at it. They set dates in which teams make bids. That’s moving just along a course that they had expected.”
The last franchise sale was when Steve Ballmer purchased the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion. In its recently released NBA value rankings, Forbes Magazine valued the Hawks at $425 million based on revenue of $119 million and operating loss of $3.6 million.
The team has been for sale since a Jan. 8 announcement.
Silver also addressed the chances of Portland getting an All-Star game in 2017 or 2018. Portland has never hosted the game and the last game in the Pacific Northwest was 1987 in Seattle’s Kingdome.
While Silver said it was too early to decide, the issue could be space in terms of scarcity of hotel rooms.
“Historically for communities like Portland is frankly the number of hotel rooms,” Silver said. “We have 1,800 credentialed members of the media alone in need of hotel rooms. Then we have thousands of guests who come to town as well. I would love to end up having an All-Star game in Portland. It’s really just a function of ensuring that we can fit it in town.”
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