Popovich reveals interesting Tim Duncan injury tidbit while discussing Kawhi

Pop: Duncan could have played in 2000 playoffs, but didn't want to risk future

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)

SAN ANTONIO – Lost in the hysteria about Kawhi Leonard’s injury status was an interesting revelation by Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich about Tim Duncan.

Popovich spoke to the media before Tuesday night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers and discussed the Spurs conservative approach to Leonard’s treatment for his quadriceps tendinopathy.

Part of Popovich’s comments included an admission that Duncan could have played in the 2000 NBA Playoffs after he tore the lateral meniscus in his left knee in the 78th game of the season, but the head coach did not want to risk the future of the team’s franchise player. 

"If we’re going to error, as we have in the past, we’re going to do it on the conservative side. We kept Timmy Duncan out of a playoff one year because of a knee and he could have played,” Popovich said. "So I don’t see this as anything different than we have done with any other player, but some people for some reason want to do that (and) that’s OK. But it doesn’t affect our team or me, or anybody else.”

With Duncan out of the lineup, the Spurs lost their first round series against the Phoenix Suns, 3-1.

The decision may have cost the Spurs a shot at winning back-to-back championships, but was also a catalyst for the Spurs dynasty, which included four more championships with Duncan.

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ESPN.com profiled the decision in a 2012 article. Popovich was quoted in the article saying, "He was young, a franchise player. He wasn't just a No. 1 pick. With him, you've got an opportunity to win multiple championships, if you don't screw it up. I didn't know if (the injury) could get worse, or get chronic."

As frustrating as it has been to see Leonard on the sideline this season, the Spurs have an established track record for allowing players to rest and recuperate as needed, especially when it comes to the health of the cornerstone of the franchise the way Duncan was for nearly two decades. 

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