Before officially joining Gregg Popovich’s staff, San Antonio Spurs legend and new assistant coach Tim Duncan scouted first-round pick Luka Samanic.
As part of the pre-draft evaluation process, the San Antonio Spurs tend to hold in-depth conversations, oftentimes over dinner, to weed out the players capable of adhering to their culture. Not every player is suited to join the Spurs Family, as it requires a certain distinguishable set of character traits such as team-first mentality, care for others, curiosity and dedication.
Few individuals know these qualities as well as the legendary Tim Duncan, who recently signed on to be an assistant coach next to Gregg Popovich on the sidelines. Well before he officially joined as an assistant, Timmy lurked around San Antonio’s facilities post-retirement to pass down knowledge, keep in shape and help the Spurs stay afloat without their franchise star.
Eventually, the echoes of return roared too loud for Duncan to ignore and he made his official return to the hardwood, this time as an assistant rather than the star of the show. In this role, Duncan can contribute to winning basketball without lacing up and doing the dirty work himself.
Although he didn’t accept the position – or at least as far as the public knows – until last week, but Duncan was around for the pre-draft process, according to an interview between the No. 19 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Luka Samanic and Croatian outlet Total Croatia News. His interview, which was translated by Jeff Garcia of the News4SA Spurs Zone, revealed Duncan’s presence in his pre-draft process in San Antonio.
“I was at the pre-draft workout, before the draft, and we went to dinner. I didn’t even know that he (Duncan) was going to be there. I thought there would only be people from San Antonio. When I saw him and saw Gregg (Popovich), that is something that does not happen every day. And we didn’t talk at all about basketball, it was all about how I was doing in school, how many languages I speak, things to fit into their San Antonio family.”
Clearly Duncan and Popovich saw something in him that aligned with their values because San Antonio opted to secure their man with the nineteenth pick despite holding the twenty-ninth pick – a spot where Samanic could’ve easily have been selected instead.
This is a testament to what Duncan, Pop, R.C. Buford and the rest of the Spurs brass see in the 19-year-old. With that kind of support backing you, it’s hard to see a route for failure.
Samanic showed brief flashes of brilliance in the 2019 NBA Summer League with highlights coming a variety of ways – crossovers, passes, defensive switches, blocked shots and deep jumpers.
Samanic will be afforded the opportunity to work closely with Timmy in the coming years and will certainly benefit from his mentorship.