Oct. 8, 2005Tim Duncan fans were out in full force Friday night, carrying signs cheering and donning their Duncan jerseys as they packed the University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center to see their hometown hero play in a San Antonio Spurs' intra-squad scrimmage.
Inside the gym, fans got a taste of what it was like to be at a real National Basketball Association game — reporters and photographers lined the court, the island's elite were in their own luxury booth, and the Spurs warmed up while the crowd did the wave.
Even Eva Longoria, star of the hit TV show "Desperate Housewives," came out for the event, cheering loudly for her boyfriend Tony Parker, the Spurs' starting point guard.
More noise was made when Duncan and team came out onto the court to be introduced for the starting lineups. As the announcer said Duncan's name, a roar ran through the building, and everybody in the stands got to their feet.
Duncan and popular player Manu Ginobili were on the Spurs silver team, while Parker and starting forward Robert Horry led the Spurs' black team.
The scrimmage delivered exactly what fans were hoping for, with Tim Duncan as the leading scorer in the first quarter.
For the most part the rookies–vying for two spots left on the Spurs' roster
outperformed the veterans on the team, led by rookie forward Fabricio Roberto who played for the black side.
Rookie guard Melvin Saunders, for the Spurs silver team, also had three exciting slam dunks which had the crowd erupting in the second quarter.
Parker also dominated the second half the game, slicing through defenders as they surrounded for many shots. At times, he even looked unstoppable, as he made several reverse lay-ups from under the net.
The final seconds of the game were the most exciting, however, as the black team desperately tried for a stop. But, second year guard Beno Udrih sunk several key three pointers late in the game, allowing the silver "home" team to hold on to an 85-84 win.
After the game, Duncan stood at center court to personally thank the crowd for their support. "Your hospitality has been overwhelming," Duncan said. "We've all had a wonderful timealthough we might have messed up the roads a little bit with our buses."
After receiving a special thank you from Laverne E. Ragster, UVI's president, Duncan and team members threw tee shirts into the crowd, getting the audience going once again. Some Spurs waited around to sign autographs for those lucky fans who were allowed onto the court by security.
Once the gym was emptied, Duncan, team, and Spurs head coach Gregg Popovitch took some time to talk to the press about the scrimmage itself. "Basketball-wise, I think it was great," Popovitch said. "There was definitely a lot of effort out there from our newer players, and a lot of corporate knowledge displayed from our seasoned players."
While Popovitch added he was able to see how new players Finley, Van Exel, and Oberto worked on the court, he said he was also impressed by the five rookies competing out on the court for the team's last two open roster spots. During the scrimmage, the Spurs' regular starting lineup didn't seem to see much game action, as Popovitch put rookies Kyle Bailey, Sharrod Ford, Stephen Graham, Melvin Sanders, and Jawad Williams in heavy rotation.
Oberto, acquired by the team through free agent signings, also got the thumbs-up from Popovitch. "He is an odd looking player," Popovitch said of the Argentinean League pro-baller. "He doesn't look like a natural out there on the court, but he always ends up getting so much done."
Popovitch wrapped up his comments about the game by saying he is trying to get the team into shape progressively throughout the next few weeks so they will be ready to compete in November.
Duncan added to Popovitch's statements by saying that because of these practices, the team will also be ready to compete against the Miami Heat in a pre-season game Monday. One of the stronger teams in the league, the Heat has also recently acquired some new all-star players, which turns this game into a possible NBA finals preview.
When asked about the event, which is a fundraiser to aid those affected by Hurricane Katrina, Duncan said that while both teams will not be expecting a lot from each other, it is a great chance to get a look at the Heat's game.
On the topic of Friday's scrimmage, Duncan further showed complete confidence in his team, saying, "Everyone played great, and I think we'll definitely be ready for the up-coming season."
Before the team left for the showers, Duncan talked once again about the reception the team has received from local residents. "They've been great," Duncan said. "And I think everyone had a lot of fun here at the scrimmage. It was a real game, and we worked hard to make sure they enjoyed everything as much as possible."
Duncan, along with Parker, said they are looking forward to a day off Saturday, finally being able to hit the beach after almost a week of rain. "I think the island is beautiful," Parker said. "It would have been even more beautiful if we had been able to see it when it wasn't raining."
Parker said Duncan and other teammates will have to be close at hand during the beach day, as he is afraid of sharks.
The team will do one final practice at UVI's gym on Sunday before leaving the island. "This was a wonderful experience," Duncan said. "We hope to be back again."
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