SAN ANTONIO Tim Duncan has trouble thinking of himself as an individual on the basketball court.
Apparently, the voters for the NBA's MVP award don't.
The 7-foot San Antonio Spurs forward edged the Minnesota Timberwolves' Kevin Garnett to win that honor for the second straight season Sunday.
Duncan is just the eighth player to win back-to-back MVP awards.
Elite players are the guys who help their team and take them to the top echelon of the league,'' Duncan said. That's what separates the good ones from the great ones.''
Not that he would publicly put himself in that category.
I was playing to win games and to be the best team in the league, and that was it,'' Duncan said. It doesn't matter who gets the glory.''
He claimed 60 of the 119 first-place votes for 962 points in voting by U.S. and Canadian media members. Garnett got 43 first-place votes and 871 points.
I think I was pretty solid, as I was last year,'' said Duncan, a sixth-year pro. I think our team did a lot better.''
He averaged 23.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.92 blocked shots, leading the Spurs to a 60-22 record, tied with the Dallas Mavericks for the best in the league.
The Spurs open the second round of the playoffs Monday night against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Duncan is the eighth player to win the MVP award in consecutive seasons, the last being Michael Jordan in 1991-92. The record is three straight, accomplished by Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.
I never would have imagined to be anywhere close to that list,'' Duncan said. It's definitely an honor.''
Last season, he averaged a career-high 25.5 points and 12.7 rebounds and edged New Jersey Nets point guard Jason Kidd for the MVP award by 57 votes.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Duncan has improved offensively from last season, primarily in decision-making about whether to shoot or pass.
Although he feels a great responsibility to bring games home, he has just as big a responsibility to make that decision, trusting his teammates,'' said Popovich, the NBA's Coach of the Year.
In addition to the two league MVP awards, Duncan was Rookie of the Year in 1997, NBA Finals MVP in 1999 and the All-Star co-MVP in 2000. He has also been picked for the All-NBA First Team five times and All-Defensive First Team four times.
Garnett, the MVP of this season's All-Star game, averaged 23 points, 13.4 rebounds and six assists. His Timberwolves finished third in the Midwest Division behind San Antonio and Dallas and lost to the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
Kobe Bryant of the Lakers finished third in the MVP voting with eight first-place votes and 496 points, followed by league-leading scorer Tracy McGrady, Shaquille O'Neal, Allen Iverson, Dirk Nowitzki and Ben Wallace.
During the regular season, Duncan ranked seventh in the league in both scoring and field-goal percentage, and third in both rebounding and blocked shots.
Despite a less-than-stellar supporting cast, he has the Spurs in position to challenge for another NBA championship. He helped San Antonio win the 1999 title in just his second season.
He's not one of the flashier guys, he's not one of the guys everybody talks about all the time,'' teammate David Robinson said Sunday.
But when you watch his game, you just can't deny that he's the most effective player on the court.''
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