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Gregg Popovich on Tim Duncan: ‘He’s irreplaceable’

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was emotional while discussing Tim Duncan’s retirement in a press conference Tuesday.
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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was emotional while discussing Tim Duncan’s retirement in a press conference Tuesday.

Wearing a black T-shirt with Duncan’s image and the words “Impossible is Potential,” Popovich held court with reporters in San Antonio and said farewell to the Spurs’ legendary big man. Duncan did not hold a press conference, announcing his retirement in a brief team release on Monday.

“He’s irreplaceable,” Popovich said. “It can’t happen. We’re all unique but he’s been so important to so many people it’s just mind boggling.”

“We all know why [he’s not here]” Popovichsaid. “It’s not Tim Duncan to bring any attention to himself. We’ve been saying it for 19 years, he really only cared about doing the best job he could basketball-wise and being who he was for his teammates...I figured I’d better come out and do this and somehow say goodbye to him, which is an impossibility for a lot of reasons.”

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The Spurs made the playoffs in all 19 of Duncan’s seasons, winning 50-plus games all but once, five championships, and last season setting the organization’s single-season wins record. Duncan. 40, retires as a 15-time All-Star, 15-time All-NBA selection (10 times on the first team), 15-time All-Defensive team selection and three-time Finals MVP.

“I just think the aura he creates,” Popovich added, “the iconic figure he established for us all those years, the security, the safety net, the home plate, the hub of the who he was as a player, even when he didn’t score as many points the last couple of years, people don’t realize how efficient he was defensively...even though his production stat-wise wasn’t the same, we won 67 games because he still was the center of everything we did at both ends of the court.”

• Retirement commemorative: A special farewell to Tim Duncan

Popovich said it would be a challenge for the Spurs to fill Duncan’s leadership void. He said he didn’t think Duncan would enter coaching, but he hoped to keep him around the organization on some type of basis.

“You don’t see Timmy beating his chest as if it’s the first time a human being dunked a basketball, as a lot of people do these days,” Popovichsaid. “He’s not pointing to the sky or glamming for the cameras, he just plays. And we’ve seen it for so long that it becomes almost mundane, but [it’s] so special, it has to be remembered.”

Jeremy Woo