Oct. 4, 2005 — The San Antonio Spurs hit the court in high spirits Tuesday, beginning this season's training camp at the University of the Virgin Islands' Sports and Fitness Center.
Players also took time out after the practice to compliment the facility and how they feel about being in the Virgin Islands.
"The facilities are great. Division I teams have played here, so it's definitely a great place. We have everything we need — we have no complaints," said Gregg Popovitch, the Spurs head coach.
Popovitch added he is grateful for the invitation to conduct the camp on St. Thomas, and said he is happy the team made the choice to come. "While this is not going to be different from any other training camp in terms of practicing and getting players conditioned for the season, it is a unique experience because we get to look outside and see the beach. We also know at the end of practice we can get out and do something Caribbean-like."
Popovitch also said the event is especially important to Tim Duncan, the team's leading power forward. "I know it's often hard for Tim to get down here, so it's nice that we can do this for him. I know he's excited to be home again, and the people are excited to see him."
Popovitch talked about the warm greeting the team received at Cyril E. King Airport, with lots of banners that said "Welcome Tim and the Spurs."
"People are just so happy to see Tim. It's like, who the hell are all those other people?" Popovitch joked.
Duncan, the driving force behind the team's presence in the V.I., also said he has, so far, felt very welcome in the territory. "Our reception was tremendous. I knew it would be — there are people coming over from St. Croix to watch us, and people from St. Thomas watching as well."
While Duncan added the rest of the team's trip is mostly business related, with practice and participating in various community events, he did say some time will be spent with family members. In addition to bringing his aunts over from St. Croix to watch the team scrimmage on Friday, Duncan said he also has family on St. Thomas he will be visiting.
The team also discussed their feelings regarding two new players acquired through free agent signings in the off-season.
Popovitch was the first to talk about matter, saying he was not only confident the team would continue its championship-winning chemistry with the additions, but he also felt there will not be any bickering over playing time.
"All the guys on the team are professionals," he said. "Michael Finley and Nick Van Exel came in knowing that their time might be reduced. But we're all working toward the same goal — to win."
Popovitch admitted he would have to "adjust things a bit here and there," he also added the team, for the most part, would not alter its identity to compete with the up-tempo teams in the National Basketball Association.
"It's not about who starts the game, as who finishes it," Popovitch said.
Other players shared their coach's sentiments. "There's a lot of talent on the bench this season," said forward Robert Horry. "And I'm happy to see Nick and Finley here. We're just going to keep doing what it takes to win."
Horry added he believes none of his teammates are "ball hogs," and therefore the team should be able to adapt favorably to the changes.
Duncan added he feels the team is moving "in the right direction" with these acquisitions, and would most likely step into their roles as the season continues.
"This training camp is great because it can be used as a bonding experience for the players, allowing them to learn about each other's strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes," Popovitch said.
After Tuesday's practice, Duncan headed over to UVI's Family Life Center to interact with children from the Kirwan Terrace Elementary School. "It's nice to see that someone with his [Duncan's] accomplishments would take time out to talk to kids," said Carmen Rogers-Green, the center's director.
Rogers-Green added she surprised the kids with Duncan's visit earlier this morning.
The Spurs training camp will continue until the end of the week, and will conclude with an in-team scrimmage at the Fitness Center on Friday. In addition to UVI, the camp is sponsored by Innovative Communications Corp, WTJX, Knight Quality Stations, WVGN, West Indian Company Ltd, the Department of Tourism and the Ritz Carlton Hotel.
They just need to learn how to spell Pop's name right
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