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Tim Duncan: Nothing but respect ... and possibly a legacy in Brooklyn?


It was done the way you'd expect. No fanfare, no press conference, no announcement of a farewell tour ... just a straightforward release from the Spurs P.R, office. Tim retiring. Thank you very much. Total Timmy.

But moving on won't be so easy. There are memories. For Nets fans, as for fans in every other NBA city over the last two decades, there are indelible ones of No. 21, but none probably as bittersweet as the Nets.  He denied the Nets a championship and now, one of his teammates, one of his coaches, is trying to recreate that same culture he pushed ... and flourished in.

Nothing in the Nets history hurts more than the memory of Duncan in the 2003 NBA Finals

It was Game Six of the 2003 Finals. The Nets were up nine in the fourth quarter. Behind Duncan's lead, the Spurs went on 19-0 run.  The Spurs capped off their incredible comeback to win the title on their home court. To this day, Kenyon Martin believes the Nets would have won the series if they finished Game Six.

Duncan averaged 24 points and 17 rebounds in 44 minutes per game. In the deciding Game Six, Duncan finished with 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and eight blocks. He was the finals MVP. Two straight years, the Nets made it to the finals and couldn't get it done.

The agony almost got worse that summer when Duncan tried to convince Jason Kidd to join the Spurs. To this day, Kidd regrets not joining Duncan.  After being wooed by Duncan and Gregg Popovich, he first said yes, then no.

"On my flight home, I think I got cold feet," Kidd told ESPN Tueday. "And sometimes I have nightmares about that. Maybe I could have won a championship or two there."

But there was never hatred or bitterness towards Timmy the way there was with Shaq and Kobe. It was just business. Just respect.

Of course, respect for the humble Tim Duncan lingers all across the league, and nowhere more so than at 168 39th Street, in Brooklyn, home of the Nets front office. Sean Marks and Duncan won a championship together in 2005 -- two seasons after Duncan beat the Nets. Then, in 2014, after he retired as a player, Marks came back as an assistant coach and with Duncan leading the way again, the Spurs won again and Marks had another ring.  He described his reaction to Duncan's

"I'm really speechless, to be honest; I'm a little surprised he's not going to play for another four, five years,'' Marks said of the 40-year-old Duncan. "Just incredible. Everybody knew this day would come eventually. What he's done for this game, for the Spurs, for the city of San Antonio, the NBA as a whole is just incredible."

Asked to separate the one thing that separated him from all his other teammates, Marks didn't hesitate.

"Undoubtedly, his work ethic.  We had to beg him not to be in the gym. Pop would turn off the lights. 'Get out of the gym, Tim.' He was always in there. You couldn't give him days off. He was just incredible. From a leadership standpoint, he set the tone."

Since taking over the job, Marks has talked publlcly about culture and tone and the Spurs model on several occasions. In private, we're told it's near non-stop. Hopefully, it will work. Trevor Booker said having the Nets adopt the Spurs model was a factor in his signing.

"Sean came from the Spurs' organization, which is the top organization in the NBA, and I've known him for a little while now and I know he's a very smart guy and I believe in the direction that he's going to take the organization."

Discussing those "character" guys he wants to bring in, Marks talks about Duncan as the epitome of what he wants ...  guys that can fit a culture; character guys just like Duncan. Unfortunately (or fortunately), there will never be another "Timmy."

"What he does behind the scenes, the humble, the sacrifice that he puts forth to his teammates and how he’s a quiet, stoic leader. When you see him behind the scenes, it’s remarkable," Marks continued. "I’m very fortunate to have spent some brief moments with him over the course of time and experienced some of his journey with him."