Since the Spurs drafted Tim Duncan No. 1 in 1997, he and Gregg Popovich have formed one of the best coach-player pairings in NBA history.
But what if San Antonio had chosen someone else?
Would Popovich still be regarded as one of the best coaches of all time? Would Duncan have experienced the same success?
Popovich was asked pregame by Mark Montieth of Pacers.com if a rumor he had heard was true, that he had to be talked into drafting Tim Duncan ahead of former Pacer Scot Pollard.
(Full disclosure: Pollard, who has done some television and radio work for team broadcasts this season was right there, not five feet from this conversation.)
“You know, you say that sarcastically but it’s a true story,” he said. “It’s a true story. I loved the way Scot played. Timmy was really smooth and all that and so I wondered, ‘Is that going to translate? Is he going to be tough? Is he going to do what he did … he’s long and lengthy and he’s thin. Scot Pollard was out there kicking you-know-what and taking names.
“It was actually a conversation. Now, I have to also say that that notion didn’t last real long.”
I love “What ifs,” and it’s interesting to consider everyone’s fates had the Spurs drafted Pollard, whom the Pistons took at No. 19.
But this one never came close to happening.
Duncan, who played four seasons at Wake Forest, was anointed the No. 1 pick years ahead of the draft. The New York Times dubbed the lottery “the Tim Duncan Sweepstakes,” and Spurs owner Peter Holt talked candidly about selecting Duncan immediately after San Antonio drew the top pick.
It’s not clear when Popovich considered Pollard, but it was either long before it mattered or once it no longer did.