NBA FINALS NOTEBOOK
Duncan Turned Down Orlando, Keeping the Spurs on Title Course
Monday, June 11, 2007
SAN ANTONIO, June 10 -- It's easily forgotten now, but the San Antonio Spurs almost certainly wouldn't have a shot at their fourth championship if Tim Duncan had signed as a free agent with the Orlando Magic during the summer of 2000.
Not long after the Spurs beat the Knicks in the 1999 NBA Finals to win their first title, Duncan was heavily courted by the Magic, which was pursuing Duncan and Grant Hill at the same time.
Duncan said he seriously considered signing with Orlando, which offered a six-year, $67.5 million deal, but cited his close relationship with former Spurs center David Robinson and his comfort level with Coach Gregg Popovich as reasons why he stayed with the Spurs.
"Life would have been a lot different," Duncan said before scoring 23 points in a 103-92 victory in Game 2 Sunday. "It was probably a lot closer of a decision than people even think or even know, but it's worked out the right way to say the least."
Events also worked out for the Spurs earlier this season when Popovich elected not to alter the team's chemistry after a mini-slump that included losses in seven out of 14 games.
At the time, some wondered whether the Spurs were athletic enough to compete with Western Conference favorites Phoenix and Dallas and there was speculation that San Antonio needed to make a move, such as acquiring Clippers swingman Corey Maggette, in order to keep pace.
"I think some guys were nervous, absolutely," Duncan said of the mood in the locker room. "We needed [Popovich] to come in there and say . . . that there weren't going to be any changes. That's the news we got and I think it helped. It pulled guys together."
With two days between Games 1 and 2, Cleveland Coach Mike Brown invited family members of the coaching staff and players to San Antonio. Brown felt it was important for his team to be in comfortable surroundings considering that only veteran guard Eric Snow has Finals experience.
"I truly believe that we should cherish the experience of being here, but not just by ourselves," Brown said. "Our families are big supporters of ours throughout the season and they deserve to be here."