Earlier this week, at their first practice in over a month, the Spurs welcomed a familiar face back into the gym. Tim Duncan, San Antonio’s unofficial “coach of whatever he feels like,” took the floor with the Spurs fresh crop of big men presumably to work on defense, rebounding, and spacing, before some one-on-one with his replacement, Pau Gasol.
Duncan’s appearance eventually prompted questions about his jersey retirement ceremony, scheduled for this Sunday night, and whether or not the Spurs’ stoic icon would get emotional. Longtime teammate Manu Ginobili had an emotion-filled offseason of his own, saying goodbye to international competition and the Olympic stage on his home continent.
“Yes, emotional for sure,” said Ginobili after practice. “Depends on what you expect to see from an ‘emotional’ Tim. It’s kind of unpredictable when you go through moments like that. Sometimes something clicks and you break. Sometimes you’re just feeling a lot of things inside and you want to cherish that moment and keep it, but maybe you don’t show it as much. We’ll see how it goes.”
Point guard Tony Parker speculated that his head coach, Gregg Popovich, would indeed get sentimental based on the “special bond” that he and Duncan share, while recalling recent jersey retirements.
“I was lucky enough to go to David [Robinson], and Sean [Elliott], and Avery [Johnson], and it was definitely special, but I didn’t play with Sean and Avery,” Parker told reporters. “Played two years with David. But to play almost my whole career with Timmy, I think it will be definitely different for me personally. So I don’t know how I will react, but definitely it’s gonna bring a lot of emotions for sure.”
According to Gasol, Duncan’s mere presence continues to evoke “respect and excellence” from those around him. For shooting guard Danny Green, Duncan represents the reason the Spurs “organization has been great for so long.” By all accounts, emotions will be running high when Duncan’s #21 takes its rightful place in the AT&T Center rafters, among the five championship banners he delivered to San Antonio.
“It’s gonna be emotional for him, because it’s emotional for everybody,” admitted Ginobili. “It’s been twenty years of his life around something. He accomplished unbelievable things. So I think that’s gonna be a great opportunity to finally close it the way he deserves.”