Tim Duncan must have drawn the short straw among the big three, because he took a turn with the media after Tuesday's practice session in advance of Thursday's preseason game at Phoenix. Duncan was questioned on a number of topics, but the one constant theme that was hammered home, as always, is that it became pretty clear that the Spurs legend simply pays zero attention to what the outside world says about him or his team.
The Big Fundamental seemed surprised by the fuss some people made over his surprisingly high minutes totals (Duncan logged a combined 68 minutes in games against Alba Berlin and Fenerbache Ulker) and disputed coach Gregg Popovich's claim that he had lobbied for the extra playing time after the coaching staff had him taking it easy in the early stages of training camp.
"I just do what I'm told to do," Duncan said. "I just try to stay in shape as much as possible, game shape especially, so quite honestly I was excited to be out there for that long. I don't want to wear myself out here in the preseason but at the same time I love being out there, trying to get in a rhythm, a feel of the game, playing someone other than ourselves, that's nice too, so I liked the minutes."
Duncan also shot down the contention by Chicago skipper Tom Thibodeau that the extra playing time that he, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili played had something to do with sending a message to their younger teammates and to the league as a whole that the Spurs were already past the "honeymoon" phase of celebrating the championship and are already dead set on winning another.
"We just showed up to play, we're trying to win, trying to get in a rhythm, we're using it as training camp, we're not sending any messages to anyone, or ourselves or anything else," Duncan said. "We're trying to get to the point where when that first game starts our team as a whole is in a rhythm and understands the way we want to play."
When asked, after 17 years in the league if there was anything new he could possibly incorporate into his repertoire of moves, Duncan begged off the idea, explaining "I'm just trying to survive at this point," but also revealing that he was emphasizing one aspect of his game that he wasn't at all happy with last season.
"I'm trying to get my shot back," Duncan said. "I think I really slacked in that last year, I didn't shoot the ball real well and I'm trying to get that back to the point where I shot it the year before. I shot it a lot better the year before so I'm trying to understand where my effective spots are in the offense we're running now and when I do get the ball to make shots and make plays from them."
Duncan naturally didn't want to get too specific on what those spots are -- "15-to-18 feet, everywhere," he said-- anyone who's watched the Spurs the past few years knows that he likes to shoot mainly from the left corner of the free throw line or a couple of feet behind that and from the left elbow, mostly.
The numbers certainly support his opinion that his shooting fell off somewhat this past season. According to basketball-reference.com, he only knocked down 37.1 percent of his shots from beyond 16 feet compared to 43.3 percent in 2012-13. He also suffered a slight dip from 10-16 feet, from 40.5 percent two years ago to 38.6 last year. Consequently, Duncan, perfectly aware that he was slumping, simply took fewer jumpers last season. 17.7 percent of his shot attempts in 2012-13 came from that 10-16 foot range, whereas last year it was only 11.1 percent. He made up the difference by attempting more layups and short floaters, which isn't at all a bad thing.
The one detail Duncan didn't mention is that he actually shot it even better in 2011-12. He was one of the best mid-range shooters in the league that season, nailing 45.7 percent of shots from 10-16 feet and an absurd 47.8 percent from 16 feet and beyond. Both figures were, by far, the best of his distinguished career.
One would think that Duncan would have a leg up on most anyone on the planet looking to improve his or her jumper because he has at his disposal Chip Engalland, the Spurs' renowned shot guru. Surely Duncan is relying on his expertise, right? Eh, maybe not so much.
"I avoid Chip like the plague," Duncan said.
Finally, Duncan was asked his opinion on the NBA experimenting with a 44-minute game, which they'll try in a preseason tilt between Boston and Brooklyn on Oct. 19.
Duncan immediately made a quizzical expression, thought about the idea, thought about it some more, and finally, at long last, the befuddled big-man answered the question with one of his own.
"Why?" he asked.
Danny Green also gave us some time today and said that the thigh injury that kept him out of the second preseason game against Fenerbache was a left thigh contusion, but it's mostly healed.
"It's close," Green said. "It's good enough to play. I took a couple of days off, got good treatment and I got up and down today in practice so it feels good right now. It was a contusion, from hitting it a couple of times, a couple times in the game (against Alba Berlin) and once before the game in practice. It wasn't too bad at first but then it stiffened up pretty good after the game."
Green also took the opportunity to apologize once more for his Twitter gaffe in Berlin, where he posted an inappropriate caption at the Holocaust Memorial. He explained he realized he screwed up pretty quickly.
"Two minutes right after I posted it, but it was two minutes too late," Green said. "I tried to change it, put a different caption up, but as I said by then it was too late. I apologized for it and still to my teammates, my organization, I apologize again, I'll learn from it and move forward. I'll try to be better, be [smarter], be more careful when it comes to posting captions."
Green confirmed that several people within the Spurs organization spoke to him soon after the incident, so the team took care to nip this in the bud as quickly as they could.
To cap off the day with some good news, the Spurs announced that they will be giving out commemorative 2014 championship rings for the fans before their season opener Oct. 28 against the Dallas Mavericks. The rings will have (obviously) fake diamonds and a different design than the ones the players will receive from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and will be one-size-fits-all.
Each fan with a paid ticket gets one ring, meaning that those who are going to be at the AT&T Center for free (ahem) probably won't get any. Doors will open at 5 p.m. for the 7 p.m. tip, with ring ceremonies scheduled for 6:30.