Vinny Del Negro reflects on Tim Duncan
PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin may have lit the league on fire in his rookie season in 2010-2011, but, according to his coach, he can still learn quite a bit from his next opponent, Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs.
The Clippers play the Spurs on the road Wednesday.
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"I think everybody can learn from (Duncan), not just Blake," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said Tuesday, before the team took off for Texas. "His demeanor, his work ethic, the way he approaches things.
"He has no ego -- he just wants to win."
Del Negro, the Clippers' second-year coach, started for the Spurs alongside Duncan in the forward's rookie season in 1997-1998, when San Antonio made it to the second round of the NBA playoffs.
That Spurs team featured three players who are already NBA head coaches in Del Negro, Monty Williams and Avery Johnson, but Duncan would be the league's rookie of the year and one of the team leaders right away.
Del Negro remembered all of that Tuesday and credited his former teammate's tenacity and smarts for his longevity in the league.
"Tim, he knows all the tricks," Del Negro said. "He's been around. He knows the time for everything.
"He'll score big for you if you don't double-team him, and if you double-team him he'll make all the right passes."
Griffin scored only 28 points combined in the Clippers' first two meetings with San Antonio last season and then exploded for 31 in the third and final matchup, which L.A. won, 90-85.
Duncan, 35, averaged just over nine points and six rebounds in the teams' three meetings. His numbers have declined significantly in recent years.
But the Clippers cautioned against looking past Duncan and the Spurs on Wednesday for the age reason that many have cited this season.
"People can say whatever they want, that they get older and all that," said point guard Chris Paul, who knows Duncan well through their Wake Forest connection and calls him a close friend. "To me, they just get wiser."
Pedro Moura is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com.