No. 1 draft pick Duncan welcomed to Spurs, San Antonio
Jun. 27, 1997
SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ Tim Duncan has made his San Antonio Spurs debut at a lively street party and pep rally in front of the Alamo, and it only made him more eager to start making his mark in the NBA.
``To be accepted like this coming in here gives me a great feeling for this city and how much it loves basketball,'' Duncan said. ``All this excitement, all this focus on me, (but) I'd rather be out there on the court.''
The Spurs used the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft Wednesday night to select Duncan, a 6-foot-10 center from Wake Forest.
Duncan was the consensus player of the year and was twice a first-team All-America. He averaged 20.8 points, a national-best 14.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocks his senior year.
``It's party time, fiesta time. We're happy to have him here,'' said Gregg Popovich, the Spurs' coach and general manager.
Duncan said he hopes to be a big contributor in the Spurs' quest to return to NBA title contention.
``They've got a great core that two years ago were championship quality, and hopefully we can get back to that point. Hopefully I can just blend in and become a big part of the team,'' Duncan said.
The Spurs envision Duncan as part of a powerful front line featuring seven-time All-Star David Robinson, the top draft pick in 1987.
Asked who would take the final shot in a tight game, Duncan looked at Popovich and replied diplomatically: ``The guy with the ball?''
``I just hope that I can do the best that I can to improve this team,'' Duncan said. ``I have to go in there and be a rookie and see what comes ... and be my best and do my best.''
San Antonio suffered through a franchise-worst 20-62 season this past year as the 7-1 Robinson missed all but six games with back and foot injuries. Other players also were out with injuries.
Robinson has been working out with weights and on the basketball court and is expected to return healthy this fall. He'll have contact practices with Duncan in August, Popovich said.
Under league rules, Duncan cannot sign with the Spurs until July. His league-mandated contract will pay him a little more than $10 million for his first three years. Then he becomes a free agent.
When Duncan, a native of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, arrived in Texas on Thursday, Spurs executives welcomed him with a giant celebration on Alamo Plaza _ complete with mariachi music, the Spurs' dancers and thousands of cheering fans.
``This is incredible. I really can't believe y'all are out here like this. It's just great,'' Duncan said.
Many fans who came to greet Duncan were teen-agers or younger.
``I just wanted to go see him, just want to make him know what it's like to be here in San Antonio,'' 12-year-old Charles Irwin said.
Kristina Sandoval, 14, brought her 11-year-old brother, Matthew, whom she described as ``crazy about the Spurs.''
Brandis Webster, 16, of Calvert, who was visiting San Antonio with his father, said he believes Duncan will be good for the Spurs.
``He'll help them out a lot,'' Webster said. ``They'll be in the playoffs next season.''