It was a heartbreaking moment for all Spurs fans when Tim Duncan announced his retirement in the season finale of Game 6. This announcement did not come as a surprise to anyone, but it still meant that this would be one last game with the legend on the team’s roster. One thing people usually don’t know about is how close he came to signing during free agency after his time with San Antonio ended. He almost signed with Orlando Magic, because Doc Rivers denied him permission despite knowing fully well what could happen if he left before their two-year contract expired.
The “Tim Duncan Almost Left The Spurs And Signed For The Magic, But Doc Rivers Made A Huge Mistake And Denied His Request” is a story about how the San Antonio Spurs almost lost their best player. Tim Duncan had an offer from the Orlando Magic and was seriously considering signing with them. However, when he found out that Doc Rivers had denied his request for a trade to the Magic, he decided not to sign with them.
Consider what might happen if Tim Duncan joined the Orlando Magic. Would the Spurs of San Antonio have had the same dynasty? What about the realm of magic? Duncan is such a generational talent that if he signed with the Magic instead of the Spurs, the Magic would be in the discussion with some of the greatest franchises of all time.
Duncan pondered joining the Magic in 2000, where he would play with Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill. Given Shaquill O’Neal’s recent departure, this would have been a formidable trio capable of competing with Shaq and Kobe Bryant. Duncan’s desire to enable his family to join the team’s plan to attend games was refused by head coach Doc Rivers, thereby ending Duncan’s chances of coming to Orlando.
What Happened, According to Doc Rivers
Doc Rivers had just earned Coach of the Year after guiding the Magic to a 41-41 record in his first season as head coach. Duncan was a free agent who was being courted by the Magic in order to join McGrady and Hill on the court. Hill had just had a good season with the Pistons, averaging 25.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game. Duncan was intrigued by the possibilities for the team’s use of the three players.
Rivers was not going to break the rule that the team aircraft was not a place for spouses or girlfriends, despite the fact that certain rules are bent for superstars. Duncan didn’t seem pleased, according to the story, and Rivers recounts the encounter in a slightly different way.
“That tale is incorrectly recounted. It was brought up in conversation. Families can fly, I reminded him, but not all of the time. Families may travel on occasion, therefore the story isn’t accurate.”
Despite their differences, Rivers said that Duncan will join the Magic. Duncan, on the other hand, was devoted to head coach Gregg Popovich and wanted to meet with the squad one more time. Rivers said that’s when one of his coworkers told him he’d blown his opportunity.
“In fact, the thing I remember the most is Tim looking at me and saying, ‘I’m very confident I’m going to the Magic,’” Rivers recalled. “He said all I have to do now is return to San Antonio because I adore Pop and want to see him one final time……” I’d want to mention that when I contacted John Calipari, he said, “Did you get him?” I told him I thought we’d found him and that Tim wanted to speak with Pop. ‘Well, you lost him,’ he remarked. On campus, we just have one rule: don’t let the child go without signing him.”
Duncan returned to meet with the Spurs for one more time. Popovich and David Robinson were on their way to Hawaii when they decided to see Duncan.
“Pop told me later that he and David Robinson came up from Hawaii and sold Tim to stay,” Rivers said.
The Magic would reach the playoffs the next three seasons, but would fall in the first round each time. The Magic would start the season 0-10 in 2003-2004, and Rivers would be fired. In the meanwhile, the Spurs would get to the Conference Finals in 2001 and then win the NBA title in 2003. Duncan would go on to win championships in 2005, 2007, and 2014.
What Might Have Happened If The Magic Had Landed, According to Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady Duncan, Tim
Duncan joining the Spurs, according to Rivers, might have been a similar circumstance to that of Kawhi Leonard a few years ago. Duncan would be joining two future Hall of Famers after winning a championship with the Spurs in 1999. Leonard, a former NBA Finals MVP, departed the Spurs a year after reaching the Conference Finals. After that, Leonard joined the Raptors for a season and helped the club win a championship in 2019.
The Orlando dream squad, on the other hand, never materialized. Hill contradicted Rivers’ account of what transpired during an interview on ESPN’s The Jump. Hill claims that he was at the meal when Rivers was trying to persuade Duncan to join Orlando, and that the tone at the table changed when Rivers declined the request.
“I was there,” Hill claimed. “I paid Tim Duncan a visit and attended the supper.” When a member of Tim’s entourage asked Doc whether significant others may accompany him on the aircraft and Doc indicated no, the vibe at the table shifted…… He should have simply lied, according to my wife.”
McGrady’s response shows that the pain hasn’t faded even after 21 years. McGrady remained silent about the matter. He couldn’t help but chuckle and clench his fists. He’s clearly considered what the team may have become if Rivers had said yes.
What Could Have Been
McGrady and Duncan together would have undoubtedly outperformed the Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers were on an incredible run at the moment, headed by MVP Allen Iverson, the team’s sole genuine superstar. Duncan and McGrady would have progressed through the Eastern Conference. Consider what happens if Hill isn’t harmed as well. If this combination had place, we may not be talking about a three-peat in Los Angeles, and Kobe Bryant and Shaq’s legacy would have suffered greatly.
Duncan eventually returned to the Spurs, while Hill struggled with injuries throughout his time in Orlando. Hill only appeared in four games in 2000, while McGrady averaged 26.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game. Even if Hill had been absent for the whole season, McGrady and Duncan might have led the club to the NBA Finals. Duncan was able to stay in town since the meeting went well. Popovich, Robinson, and Duncan would go on to win another championship together in 2003, with Duncan taking home the regular-season MVP award.
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