Life without Tim Duncan has officially begun for the San Antonio Spurs, even if they aren’t quite ready to accept it.
For the first time in almost two decades, San Antonio will be heading into training camp, which starts Tuesday, without Duncan.
The Spurs kicked off Monday with their media day and Head Coach Gregg Popovich was already in mid-season form.
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Popovich joked that Duncan is being fined daily — “$2,500 a day, every day that he does not show up.”
But for LaMarcus Aldridge whom is heading into his second season with San Antonio, it did not have much of an impact on him as it did with the others that were able to be around Duncan for so many years.
“I wasn’t here with him that long so it’s not as dramatic for me as it will be for everybody else, but it definitely feels like he should walk in any moment but he hasn’t yet,” Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge said.
Duncan retired in July after 19 seasons as arguably the greatest power forward of all time. A two-time MVP, he definite Hall of Famer, Duncan helped San Antonio to five NBA titles and set a unselfish, team-first mentality.
He was the foundation of the organization.
With San Antonio knowing Duncan’s playing days were numbered, their transition from the Spurs’ Big Three of Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili began last season with the addition of LaMarcus Aldridge and the continued growth of one Kawhi Leonard.
San Antonio did not stop there. The makeover in the offseason continued with the signing of Pau Gasol.
As a great addition he will be to the Spurs, that still does not soften the blow that was the retirement of Duncan.
Sep 26, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (9) poses for photos during media day at the Spurs training facility. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Parker whom has been alongside Duncan through-out his whole career stated Monday, it will him harder the most once he steps on the court, without Duncan by his side.
“I think it’s going to hit me more tomorrow when we get on the court,” Parker said. “We’re definitely going to miss him. You can’t replace a guy like that. He’s been the face of the franchise for the last two decades. It’s going to be weird. It’s going to be weird without him, especially now that we have a lot of young guys, a lot of new faces and so it’s going to be a lot of teaching to do at the beginning of the season.”
There is no word on what Duncan plans on doing during his retirement but surely many would love to see him having some type of job with the organization.
He though will attend some practices to assist with coaching, but it will be up to Parker, Ginobili and the other veterans to acclimate the largest number of new faces in Popovich’s 20 seasons as Spurs coach.
San Antonio added 11 new players to its training camp roster, including rookies Dejounte Murray and Davis Bertans and free agents like Gasol and David Lee.
Gasol is the most critical addition. All eyes will be on him as he will be manning the middle, where Duncan patrolled for many years.
Entering his 17th season, the 7-foot center has won two NBA championships and made his sixth All-Star appearance last season while with the Chicago Bulls.
Gasol though, knows how unique and great of a player Duncan was and what he brought to the city and the organization.
“Tim has been so exceptional and unique,” Gasol said. “He is considered by most of us the best power forward that has ever played the game. So, I’m not coming here to fill his shoes and the spot that he left, but I’m here to make the best that I can to fit in as best as I can and to work with the guys that are here to win a title and work as hard as I can to do that. It’s an opportunity, it’s a privilege but at the same time, it’s a huge challenge.”
Gasol’s presence will help ease the burden on Leonard and Aldridge.
San Antonio is coming off of a season where they set a franchise-record with 67 victories season -before falling to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals.
Aldridge summed it up the best. He gives all respect to Duncan and knows there will not be another.
“I think everybody has to take on that burden,” Aldridge said. “It’s not a one-player’s job, no one can be Tim Duncan. It’s going to be everyone’s job.”