As the San Antonio Spurs get set to face the new-and-improved Los Angeles Clippers tomorrow night, one matchup to watch for is Tim Duncan against Blake Griffin.
It wasn't that long ago Duncan was the premier forward in the NBA. Now that honor arguably can go to Griffin. it can also be seen as a battle between the old and new guard in the NBA.
And although Griffin might be lighting it up for the Clippers with his stellar dunks, and high-scoring games, Clippers head coach (and former Spurs guard) Vinny Del Negro feels Blake still has much to learn and points to Duncan as someone the star forward should look at to improve.
"I think everybody can learn from (Duncan), not just Blake," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said Tuesday, before the team took off for Texas. "His demeanor, his work ethic, the way he approaches things.
"He has no ego -- he just wants to win."
Del Negro knows first-hand about TD and his professionalism on and off the court. Vinny teamed up with Duncan during Duncan's rookie season. And though it has been years since Duncan's rookie season, Del Negro can point directly to what makes TD so special.
"Tim, he knows all the tricks," Del Negro said. "He's been around. He knows the time for everything.
"He'll score big for you if you don't double-team him, and if you double-team him he'll make all the right passes."
Griffin is in his second NBA season and though he does steady the Clippers' squad, Del Negro is right, Griffin still needs to develop an all-around game. What will make Blake a much more deadlier player will be to develop a consistent outside shot and better post-moves. He cannot rely on pure athleticism to get it done on the court his entire NBA career. Like Duncan, having a back-to-the-basket game, a reliable outside shooting touch, ability to set aside the ego, and more importantly, put team first, will only make Blake better.
Not to say Blake has an ego or doesn't put team first but his game does need polishing. Moreover, if any big man currently playing in the NBA, TD has to be the benchmark for any young big man in the NBA to emulate.
And although Duncan's prime years are behind him, new Clippers point guard Chris Paul says never count out Duncan.
"People can say whatever they want, that they get older and all that," said point guard Chris Paul, who knows Duncan well through their Wake Forest connection and calls him a close friend. "To me, they just get wiser."