Silent but Deadly
In a gallery of shooting All-Stars, quiet Tim Duncan's aim was truest
He had turned in another brilliant performance, understated as usual, but in the waning seconds of Sunday's All-Star Game, even Tim Duncan couldn't help getting swept up in the All-Star razzle-dazzle. So, with 1:17 left and his team comfortably in the lead, the Spurs' center elevated and, with uncommon style, delivered a one-handed tomahawk dunk over Alonzo Mourning.
It was a stunning display of power and finesse, and for many fans who jammed into The Arena at Oakland last weekend intent on watching Vince Carter perform 360-degree tomahawks and Allen Iverson turn some sucker's ankle with his killer crossover dribble, Duncan's dunk was a wake-up call. Oh, that's right. Tim Duncan. I forgot, that guy's good.
Duncan finished with 24 points on 12-of-14 shooting, scoring in the paint, off the glass, on the run. His four assists, one block and game-high 14 rebounds were both efficient and forgettable. He was the silent assassin, while his more flamboyant co-MVP, Shaquille O'Neal, dominated the highlight reel with 22 noticeable points, nine boards and three blocks.
"Sometimes you forget Tim's out there, because he [goes about] his business so quietly," said East forward Grant Hill. "But then you get a dunk in the face to remind you he's lurking." This season Duncan has embodied the word consistency, registering double doubles in all but six of his 49 games. His Spurs are the defending NBA champs, yet somehow he has been lost amid the ballyhooed ascension of young stars such as Carter.
Wasn't it only eight months ago that we proclaimed Duncan the best young basketball player on the planet? Why, then, has he slipped from our consciousness? Why, when the MVP award is mentioned, do we rattle off Shaq, 'Zo, Chris Webber and Gary Payton as candidates, making this 7-foot marvel an afterthought? "It's because of the way he plays," says fellow West All-Star Michael Finley. "I've done it myself. We get to the end of a game against the Spurs, and I'm thinking, We've contained Tim Duncan. Then I look up and realize he's got 25 points and 12 rebounds." O'Neal, a longtime Duncan fan, says, "You don't see too many guys [his size] who can go inside and out. I admire him for that."
Last season Duncan lost a tight league MVP vote to Karl Malone, and he did not feign indifference to this slight This season Duncan is putting up the same kind of numbers as last year, night after night Warn your favorite center: Duncan is lurking, and someone's going to pay.
The Rookie Game
A Mix of Style And Substance
Last Saturday's All-Star rookie game, which pitted this season's top newcomers against last year's, took a surreal turn in the first half: Cleveland rookie Andre Miller was roundly booed for scoring a basket. His crime was that he laid the ball in on a fast break instead of dunking it. The fans, demanding entertainment for their dollars, hooted at Miller for daring to choose solid, no-frills basketball over a stylish grandstanding move. The crowd continued to voice its displeasure almost every time he touched the ball.
What could Miller, who scored 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting, have been thinking? Hadn't he seen Sacramento point guard Jason Williams bobbing, weaving and juking with the ball, shooting skyscraper three-pointers and rifling behind-the-back no-look passes to surprised teammates (and, at times, to unsuspecting fans in the stands)? "This was not a night for fundamentals," said Williams, the overwhelming people's choice, after the game.