Based on years of hearing him in interviews, we can safely assume Tim Duncan’s Hall of Fame induction speech will include fewer syllables than a gas station pricing sign.
UPDATE: Friday, May 23, at 3:37 p.m. ET by Ben Leibowitz
While Tony Parker divulged that Tim Duncan never spoke to him during his rookie season, TD explained that it was due to the language barrier, rather than any form of rookie hazing. Per the San Antonio Express-News Dan McCarney:
Duncan on why he rarely spoke to rookie Parker: "He spoke French mostly. I couldn't understand him. No reason to communicate with him."— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneysaen) May 23, 2014
Don't take it too personally, Tony. Apparently "The Big Fundamental" just couldn't understand you.
---End of update---
[Duncan] didn’t talk to me for a whole year. It was kind of weird coming from France and you have your superstar player that doesn’t talk to you as a point guard, it’s kind of tough, you know? Because you’re supposed to talk to everybody.
Well, yes. That’s generally how team sports work.
We’re assuming Parker is referring specifically to the two’s off-the-court rapport, rather than their on-court communication, because refusing to call out an impending blindside pick by Karl Malone strikes us as...well, a war crime, basically.
With head coach Gregg Popovich, Parker’s personality learning curve was even steeper:
I think you had to earn [Duncan’s] respect, I guess. That’s fair, when you’re 19. That’s how I felt, that I had to earn the respect of my teammates and my coaches. Especially Coach Pop (Gregg Popovich). For the first 3-4 years, it was like war with him.
Needless to say, the legendary pick-and-roll duo wound up becoming the chummiest of chums:
But as we grew together in the league and he trusted me more, I can really say it’s a special relationship because I feel close to him on the court. But even off the court, we’ve both been through a lot of stuff throughout our career so I think it got us closer.
Indeed, Parker seems to understand Duncan and Gregg Popovich’s intermittent silent treatments had nothing to do with an actual clash of personalities and everything to do with reinforcing the fact that, at the end of the day, you’re a rookie from France whose most important responsibilities are carrying Danny Ferry’s trunk full of SEALs-grade archery equipment and making sure Pop is fed his daily intake of falcon meat.
In a piece written in the midst of last year’s playoffs, Newsday’s Al Iannazzone stressed the importance of the Spurs’ “core four” in helping sustain San Antonio’s dominance, using the team he covers as a poignant point of contrast:
Duncan and Parker have played 816 regular-season games together the most among active duos, just before Duncan and [Manu] Ginobili’s 678 games. ... The Knicks’ Big Three of [Carmelo] Anthony, [Amar’e] Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler have appeared in 62 games total. The Knicks have talked about keeping their core together to develop chemistry and improve through familiarity. The Spurs are living proof it works, but they were fortunate that their players grew up in their system.
No team in the NBA can boast the bona fide brotherhood of the Spurs, which is what makes Parker’s anecdote so fascinating: In focusing on the X’s and O’s, we often take for granted the work required to foster genuine—and positive—organizational chemistry.
Having won a regular-season franchise-record-tying 62 games heading into the playoffs, the Spurs—led, as ever, by Duncan, Parker and Ginobili—are raring to redeem last year’s heartbreaking Finals loss by leaning on their singular sense of synchronicity.
The result being, as ever, a uniquely beautiful brand of basketball.
Seriously, though, how funny would it be if Duncan got up for Parker’s best-man speech, played a round of Flappy Bird up at the podium and just walked off into the distance?