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Duncan Sits Out U.S. Win

August 24, 2003|From Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Tim Duncan decided not to play against his homeland, and the U.S. Olympic qualifying team did not need him Saturday in a 113-55 victory over the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Duncan was in uniform but did not play in the U.S. team's final game of the first round at the Tournament of the Americas. Elton Brand replaced him in the starting lineup, and the U.S. team broke the game open with a 20-0 run in the second quarter.

Duncan had been struggling with the idea of playing against his homeland. He lived in the U.S. Virgin Islands until he was 18.

"It was a personal decision, of course," Duncan said in a statement released by the team. "I did speak with the coaches and some of my Virgin Islands friends, and I came to the decision that it was the best gesture to make and the right thing to do, and that it felt right in this situation."

Under international eligibility rules, a player cannot represent a second country after he has competed for a different nation above junior level. In Duncan's case, he became ineligible to represent the Virgin Islands after he played for the U.S. at the 1994 Goodwill Games.

"Timmy based his decision on the circumstances at hand," said U.S. assistant coach Gregg Popovich, also Duncan's coach with the San Antonio Spurs. "He feels real good that it was the right thing to do."

Duncan has been the third-leading scorer for the U.S., averaging 12.0 points and a team-leading 7.3 rebounds.

"I can understand his situation when I see how hard a lot of these international players play, with the pride for their country," Brand said. "That's where T.D.'s from, so I respect that. Now if it was a closer game or we'd have lost, then I might not respect that."

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