Tim Duncan won the 2014-15 Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award and offered a few minutes of media availability Wednesday afternoon.
For someone like Duncan, who's racked up probably hundreds of accolades, trophies, and awards of the years, the inclination might be to think that he'd be tempted to roll his eyes about the prospect of receiving yet another. However, the fact that this award had more to do with his behavior, who he is rather than how he plays, seemed to touch Duncan a bit more.
"That's what makes it the most special, knowing that people from around the league, and teammates, those guys voted me and chose me for this award. It's an amazing honor... I was really stoked when I heard about it," Duncan explained.
The St. Croix native added that he when he was informed about winning the award, he took it upon himself to learn a bit about its history and those of the men it was named after. Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes were teammates on the Rochester/Cincinnati Royals from 1955-58 and after Stokes suffered an injury in the final game of the 1957-58 season, resulting in a coma and permanent paralysis (he was diagnosed with post-traumatic encephalopathy, a brain injury which damages the motor-control center), Twyman supported him the rest of his life as a legal guardian and advocate, going so far as organizing charities for his medical care and stumping for him to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
"I have done my research, yeah, I have," Duncan confirmed. "I have spoken to a number of different coaches and Pop was great at giving me the background and the history of the teammates and what the award truly means and obviously that makes it even more special."
Duncan was asked if David Robinson and other veterans such as Jerome Kersey, Avery Johnson, Will Purdue and Steve Kerr influenced him in learning how to be a good teammate and he readily agreed.
"I know how to be the way I am because of the people that came before me," Duncan said. "People that I was able to be teammates with, be around, watch them operate, watch them work, watch them as teammates accept a role, all those things are big pieces in what I am today and who I am today, so a lot of the credit goes to them as well."
The Spurs as a whole have earned a reputation for creating a culture of unity and sportsmanship, where teammates enjoy one another on and off the floor and so much of the individualism and selfishness we associate to big-time professional sports just isn't an issue. Duncan credited coach Gregg Popovich for the establishing a familial atmosphere.
"It's been an evolution," Duncan explained. "We've grown over the years and understood how to do it, what works and what doesn't work. We've gone through some ups and downs with some mistakes, whether it's the way we do things, or with players, whatever else, but I think Pop has it down pat now to the point where we know what we want to do and how we want to do it and we're comfortable doing it that way and comfortable creating that atmosphere, and on that note we've been blessed over the years to add players over the years who want to be here and because of that want to be a part of our organization."
Naturally, Duncan was eventually asked about LaMarcus Aldridge and the other additions to the team and made it clear that it's too soon to be thinking about how each piece will fit and whatnot.
"It's going to be a work in progress," he said, adding that he worked out with Aldridge when the former Blazer was in town recently. "There's a process. There's no way to answer that question right now. Obviously we've added talent, and that's wonderful, but we're going to have to work them in and have them figure out how to play with us, how for us to play with them, so it'll be a process. Pop's excited about it, I'm definitely excited about it, the guys coming in are, and it's great to be coming into a situation where we have a chance again."
Besides Aldridge, the teammate Duncan is most eager to meet is David West, who gave up a $12.6 million option on his contract with the Pacers and more lucrative offers elsewhere to play for the veterans minimum with the Spurs.
"I'm excited about him, I'm excited to get to know him, because of that and other reasons," Duncan said. "People talk very highly of him, a lot of guys who've been teammates over the years with him have a lot of great things to say about him. Obviously talent-wise he's a great addition, he's a tough body, he's a veteran player who knows how to play the game, all those things, if we add him the right way, it's going to be an incredible plus for us."
Former Spurs Jeff Ayres, George Hill and Ian Mahinmi have played with West in Indiana, Roy Hibbert has worked out with Duncan in past off-seasons and there's even the Luis Scola connection through Manu Ginobili, so the Spurs have plenty of intelligence on who they're getting.
West will surely be a great teammate, but as we've learned, he'll have his work cut out for him eclipsing out another power forward on the roster in that regard.