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Duncan sets exemplary example

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

May 6, 2004 | ESPN.com's NBA playoff coverage

When you look at the postseason performance of San Antonio Spurs big man Tim Duncan so far, wow, what a special player! The Spurs have won 17 straight games dating back to their 11-game winning streak to close out the regular season ... and Duncan personifies the term winner.

Tim Duncan
Will Tim Duncan and the Spurs be No. 1 again this postseason?
In the first round of the playoffs, the Spurs swept the Memphis Grizzlies, with Duncan averaging 24.3 points and 10 rebounds per game. And look at the way he played in the fourth quarter of Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Los Angeles Lakers.

When the game was on the line, Duncan came through big-time! He finished with a double-double (a game-high 30 points and 11 rebounds) in San Antonio's 88-78 win.

Then, in Game 2 on Wednesday night, the Spurs beat LA 95-85. Duncan scored 24 points and added seven rebounds as San Antonio took a 2-0 series lead.

Duncan isn't the most spectacular performer in the game today, and he doesn't do it with a lot of flair, but he is solid fundamentally. He's a flat-out PTPer.

I truly believe that four years on the college level at Wake Forest made a real difference for Mr. Duncan, who won back-to-back league MVP awards in 2002 and '03.

In college, Duncan developed the fundamentals that have taken him to where he is today -- one of the top-five players in the game. Those fundamentals are key for the Spurs, who are gunning for back-to-back NBA championships (and their third in six years).

Duncan's numbers truly stand out -- 22.4 points and 12.4 rebounds per game in the regular season -- but as a genuine superstar, he's a lot more than just stats. Duncan makes the basic plays, whether it's the screen and roll, stepping away and shooting the open jumper, taking it to the basket or just rebounding. He's a total player.

Duncan understands what it takes to win, and he plays within a team concept. Many other kids would have become much better players if they had followed the route of Mr. Duncan and stayed in school.

Yes, I can hear the cries about Kevin Garnett (this year's league MVP), Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady and others -- who went straight from high school to the NBA. But they're unique and special players. Those guys are in another world.

The bottom line is that guys like Duncan have so much going for them in more ways than one. They have the ability to shoot the jumper and go up and down the floor, but they also have a four-year experience that will last a lifetime.

Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he's been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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