ABOVE ALL ELSE,
OVER THE LAST DECADE TIM DUNCAN'S SPURS HAVE BEEN KNOWN FOR THEIR QUIET
PROFESSIONALISM. SO WHEN THE BIG FUNDAMENTAL HIMSELF WAS EJECTED BY REFEREE
JOEY CRAWFORD DURING A NATIONALLY TELEVISED APRIL TILT FOR LAUGHING, THE NEWS
MADE QUITE A SPLASH. � DUNCAN WAS FINED $25,000 FOR VERBALLY ABUSING THE
REFEREE, WHO ACCORDING to Duncan had challenged him to fight
incident was exactly what the Spurs were not—headline-grabbing,
self-serving—but, it can be argued, exactly what they needed. They finished
nine games behind the Mavericks in the regular season, but after Duncan
returned from his ejection, San Antonio went 16-4. Perhaps Crawford, who was
suspended indefinitely, brought the fight out of the Spurs after all.
The regular season
was by no means a failure, however. Despite falling behind a streaking Dallas
squad, San Antonio's veteran roster conducted business as usual, drawing on the
experience gained through three title runs in the previous nine seasons. For a
perennial 50-win team with the best winning percentage in pro sports over the
last decade, making the playoffs was a foregone conclusion, so health for the
postseason (and playoff seeding) became the most crucial factor for the Spurs'
success. Thankfully for Duncan & Co., fate cooperated. No major contributor
missed more than 12 games, and the Big Three—Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu
Gin�bili—combined to sit out only 14 games. This was a big departure from the
2005-06 season when foot injuries slowed Duncan and Gin�bili was sidelined for
17 games by a rash of ills.
Leading the way on
the floor were Duncan, a two-time MVP who averaged 20.0 points, 10.6 rebounds
and was named to the All-NBA First Team (yet received zero first-place votes
for MVP); Parker, who was the only player not named Steve Nash to average 15
points and five assists while shooting more than 50% from the field; and
Gin�bili, the league's second-highest scorer off the bench (16.5). Also
contributing were veterans Michael Finley and Brent Barry, adding much-needed
offense in their second seasons as Spurs; big men Francisco Elson and Fabricio
Oberto, providing defense and rebounds; and defensive stalwart Bruce Bowen, who
was the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year.
By the end of the
season, after all of the parts found their place, the Spurs were the ones
Tim Duncan reached two major career milestones during the 2006-07 regular
season, surpassing 15,000 points and 500 double doubles en route to being named
to the All-NBA First Team for the ninth time.
Popovich over his eighth consecutive 50-win squad.
Sixth man Manu Gin�bili led the team in scoring 20 times and set a Spurs record
by pouring in 24 straight points in one game, breaking the mark of 23 set by
The Spurs' "other" All-Star, playmaking Parisian Tony Parker, ran San
Antonio's point for the sixth straight season, finishing in the top 25 in total
points, assists per game and field goal percentage—all while planning a July
wedding to actress Eva Longoria.
Named to the NBA's All-Defensive team for the seventh straight season, Bruce
Bowen maintained his place as the NBA's toughest perimeter defender by hounding
the likes of the Mavs' Devin Harris night in and night out.