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Duncan and Popovich Share Special Relationship

AP Photo

Gregg Popovich has never worried that Tim Duncan will lobby management to get rid of him behind his back. They are as tethered to each other as this city is to the Alamo. For 15 of his 16 years as the Spurs’ coach, Popovich has told assistants, “We have the easiest job in the N.B.A. because of Tim Duncan, because of who he is and the way he conducts himself.”

But here in the land that N.B.A. time forgot — where there is no “I” in team, only in Tim — folks still face a universal chronological challenge. If growing apart is not a problem, growing old is. Duncan, the most minimalist superstar of the modern professional basketball era, will turn 36 on April 25. Popovich, the only N.B.A. coach Duncan has had and with whom he has...

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