Why don’t more stars want to be like Tim Duncan?

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In Saturday’s New York Times, Harvey Araton has a piece on Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich, comrades in court action, and how different they stand from the modern generation of market-chasing, self-aggrandizing drama queens that currently permeate the landscape. Let’s start here: I’m an NBA modernist. I don’t go for the “back in my day…” crap because there have always been egomaniacs, there will always be egomaniacs at this level of professional sports, and in reality, it’s most often a good thing. But Duncan and Popovich stand as something completely different and offer an alternative way to handle yourselves.

Imagine a superstar who doesn’t undermine his coach, doesn’t balk at touches or direction and doesn’t chafe at the idea of discipline. Then imagine that player has enjoyed 13 years of NBA title contention. Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of that? From the NY Times:

“Unlike some other guys, I’ve been lucky,” he said. “With the teams we’ve had, with the focus of the people here wanting to put winning teams together, of having a system and sticking to it. There’s no better way to do it. It’s a special situation, obviously, and everybody can’t have it.

“In other places, coaches come in and out, and there are guys who have four or five in the same amount of years, and that’s a situation I can see why you’d want to get out of. But people changing for size of market? That I really don’t understand.”

When Duncan was asked if any of the young N.B.A. power brokers — for instance, Dwight Howard, who reportedly went backdoor in an attempt to oust Coach Stan Van Gundy in Orlando while refusing to commit to the franchise beyond next season — had ever sought his counsel on the benefits of laying deep roots, he shook his head and said, simply, “Nope.”

Told of the exchange, R. C. Buford, the Spurs’ general manager, laughed and said, “Very few people can have a conversation with Tim that would last long enough for them to get that much out of it.”

via In San Antonio, Duncan and Popovich Work Well Together – NYTimes.com.

Don’t talk. Don’t say anything. Just do your job and win titles.

Now, we may be on the verge of seeing a return of this mindset. Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, these guys are the new model of appropriate action. John Wall, were he to be put in the position to succeed, certainly seems the type. But for players that talk so much about winning and then do things like request trades to the Nets, maybe looking at the greatest power forward of all time might give you an idea that you don’t have to act like Jordan and Kobe to succeed. There is a way to win with dignity in this league.

But maybe the money really just is that important.

Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis still not talking off court

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The Bulls are 5-0 since Nikola Mirotic returned from an injury suffered when Bobby Portis punched him in the face during a preseason practice. Mirotic and Portis are both excelling individually, and Chicago has outscored opponents by a whopping 34.3 points per 100 possessions when those two share the court.

Jack Maloney of CBSSports.com:

When asked if the two former combatants have spoken yet, Mirotic said, “We did on the floor. We’ve always spoken because we need to have good communication.” As for whether they’ve talked off the floor, however, Mirotic was succinct in his response: “No.”

I guess Mirotic hasn’t completely moved on, though he said he did. But that’s fine. How could someone get past a teammate punching him in the face?

Importantly, this is becoming just a regular NBA problem. The extent of that practice punch was practically unprecedented. But plenty of players have loathed teammates while making it work on the court. That happens more than people realize.

Mirotic and Portis can make this their status quo – at least the on-court cooperation. I’m not convinced Chicago will keep winning like this.

Watch Kobe Bryant’s ‘Dear Basketball’ short film (video)

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Kobe Bryant announced his retirement in a letter called “Dear Basketball,” which was made into a short film.

Now, on the day the Lakers retire his Nos. 8 and 24, you can watch it. It’s quite beautiful:

Double number retirement fitting for Kobe Bryant

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Kobe Bryant’s career truly occurred in two acts.

He was Shaquille O’Neal’s super sidekick for three championships. Then, Kobe led the Lakers to another two titles himself after Shaq departed.

He was an athletic, high-flying slam-dunk-contest champion. Then, he became known for his cerebral play and footwork.

He faced trial for rape in Colorado (the case was ultimately dismissed, and he settled civilly), blame for Shaq getting traded and criticism for being too selfish when the Lakers struggled in the aftermath of Shaq’s departure. Then, Kobe – still beloved by his fans – again became a socially acceptable marketing force.

His 2007 trade request serves as the more accurate intermission point, but his 2006 jersey change from No. 8 to No. 24 works well enough. He had a Hall of Fame career in No. 8 then a borderline Hall of Fame career in No. 24. Think Tracy Mcgrady’s career followed by Bernard King’s – but it was just Kobe followed by Kobe and with far more postseason success.

Here are the win-share leaders with a single franchise during Kobe’s career:

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So much about Kobe is excessive – his accolades, his shot selection, his reputation as clutch. He had an all-time great career, but the myth outpaces reality.

Yet, Kobe becoming the first player with two numbers retired by the same team – which the Lakers will do at halftime tonight – feels incredibly appropriate. In his 20-year career with the Lakers, Kobe had time to succeed then succeed again in an extravagant way only he could manage.

He was dedicated and disciplined, flashy and fastidious, No. 8 and No. 24

Warriors will watch Kobe Bryant’s numbers get retired, Lakers might not

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The Lakers will retire Kobe Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 at halftime of their game against Warriors tonight.

The road team won’t miss it. The home team might.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr, via Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area:

“I want our guys to see it,” Kerr said Saturday. “It’ll be a pretty cool moment.

“Just to experience of one of the greatest players in the history of the game getting his jersey retired and we happen to be there? I’m not going to keep them in the locker room watching tape from the first half. The players would look at me like I was nuts.”

Lakers coach Luke Walton, via Harrison Faigen of Lakers Nation:

“I hadn’t thought much about [watching the ceremony],” Walton said Sunday. “We’re still deciding how we’ll approach halftime.

“Our first priority is still the job that we have. I’m sure there’s going to be some halftime adjustments we need to make against the Warriors. We’re toying with a couple different ideas to let guys at least see part of it.”

Kerr seems like a pretty cool guy, someone who understands what truly matters. This will be a historic moment, and that can take priority over watching video for one night in a long season.

But he also has the luxury of coaching an all-time great team. Even with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia and Shaun Livingston injured, the Warriors are favored.

Walton has a young team that needs every break it can get. But he too should embrace the significance of the ceremony. His franchise is.

After reportedly initially being scheduled for pregame, the ceremony will occur at halftime. The NBA implemented a hard 15-minute limit on halftimes this season. Any team not ready will be assessed a delay-of-game penalty. So, lengthy speeches tonight could hinder the current team on the court. And that’s well worth the cost of doing business.

In the same regard, current Lakers watching Kobe’s ceremony would gain pride in being a Laker. There’s real value in that, probably more than in going over adjustments for a December game during a season very likely to end outside the playoffs regardless.