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Spurs great Tim Duncan returns to team as assistant coach under Popovich

Future NBA Hall of Famer Tim Duncan is back with the team he helped lead to five league championships, taking a job as an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich.

Duncan, the San Antonio Spurs’ all-time leader in scoring and rebounds, came back to the team on Monday in a move announced with little fanfare and with a self-deprecating comment from Popovich.

“It is only fitting, that after I served loyally for 19 years as Tim Duncan’s assistant, that he returns the favor,” Popovich said in a news release.

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Duncan, who was the No. 1 overall draft pick out Wake Forest in 1997, played 19 seasons with the Spurs before retiring in the summer of 2016. He was a 15-time all-star, was MVP of the NBA finals three times and league MVP twice.

Duncan has coached San Antonio’s post players at times since retiring. The 6-foot, 11-inch Virgin Islands native finished 14th all-time in scoring and sixth in rebounds and is widely considered one of the top players to ever take to the hardwood.

Last year, longtime teammate Tony Parker said Duncan was the key to the Spurs’ long run of success.

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“Because here’s the thing with Tim Duncan: Was he the greatest player of all time?” Parker wrote in a Players Tribune post. “I don’t know — he’s the greatest I ever played with, I’ll say that, and I’ll let the experts take it from there. But here’s one thing I’ll tell you, absolutely: Timmy was the most coachable great player of all time.”

Popovich, at a retirement ceremony for Duncan in 2016, had similar praise.

“I don’t even want to talk about rebounds, points and all that sort of thing,”  Popovich said. “This individual made it possible for everybody we brought in throughout the years to be a part of this culture and be a part of this program. As everybody said: His empathy, his ability to make people welcome and lead quietly, but with dignity and gravitas, made him special beyond most anybody that you could imagine.”

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