For all the similarities with their playing styles and management structure, a distinct difference between Miami and the Spurs is readily apparent while walking around and through the Heat’s home at American Airlines Arena. Individual player images are everywhere — plastered on elevator doors, draped on light poles outside the building, even covering the trams that carry passengers throughout downtown Miami. LeBron James has the largest, in the person of the gigantic NIKE banner — tagline: witness history — celebrating his fourth MVP on the building’s facade. But even bit players like Joel Anthony and James Jones are showcased. That’s in stark contrast to the AT&T Center, where the team’s marketing department is instructed to feature Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili equally, and any other player image can be used only with approval. That’s in lockstep with the franchise-first approach long favored by the organization’s mastermind and head coach, Gregg Popovich. “We’ve never labeled it as someone’s team,” he said. “It’s our team. It’s not my team or Tim’s team or Manu’s team or Tony’s team. It’s our team.” That said, Parker wouldn’t mind seeing Duncan get some special recognition after his 16 seasons of world-class play. “At his age, 50, doing what he’s doing is crazy,” Parker teased before getting serious. “I don’t know how he does it, seriously. It’s unbelievable. It’s a great example for me to follow. “This will always be Timmy’s franchise. Always. (The franchise) should (build) a statue for him outside the AT&T Center. He means so much to the city and to the organization and the level that he’s playing all those years.” Duncan did his session before Parker spoke, so the media had no chance to bounce the suggestion off him. One honor he could have done without was the poster Chris Bosh hung on his wall while growing up in Dallas. “It’s really odd to hear that,” Duncan said. “It means I’ve been around for a very, very long time. I guess I’m honored by it. But we’re both here for single purposes, to try to beat each other up.” Business as usual: While the rest of the basketball world marveled at the job Kawhi Leonard did in spearheading the Spurs’ defense against LeBron James, the young small forward didn’t get what all the fuss was about. “He still had a great game,” he said, “so just got to come out next game a little more focused and try to make it tough for him. I think I did all right. We won the game. But he still had a great game.” Indeed, James had a monster triple double with 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists — only the seventh time a player has reached those thresholds in the past 28 postseasons. But James was also held to his lowest playoff scoring output since the 2011 Finals while making less than half his shots (7 for 16). The Spurs spent the evening surrounding James with as many bodies as possible. It was reminiscent to what they did in the 2007 Finals when he was still with Cleveland, but Popovich was hesitant to make a direct comparison. “In some parts yes, some parts no,” he said. It’s basketball. There’s nothing tricky really about basketball. There are only so many things you can do. So we try to do a little bit of everything.
Celebrating Old Man Duncan
San Antonio Express-News | Jun 8