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Duncan sits out, U.S. still cruises

Posted: Sunday, August 24, 2003

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico Tim Duncan decided not to play against his homeland, and the American 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 and decided before tipoff to sit out. He lived in the U.S. Virgin Islands until he was 18 and left to attend Wake Forest.

''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 United States at the 1994 Goodwill Games.

''Timmy based his decision on the circumstances at hand,'' U.S. assistant coach Gregg Popovich said. ''He feels real good that it was the right thing to do.''

Duncan also played on U.S. teams at the 1995 World University Games, the 1996 22-and-under World Championship qualifying team and the 1999 Tournament of the Americas.

He was unable to compete in the 2000 Olympics because of an injury.

Duncan has been the third-leading scorer for the U.S. team, 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. 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,'' Brand said.

The Americans bounced back after a sub-par performance against Venezuela, dominating the game in the second quarter after the U.S. Virgin Islands trailed just 26-19 following the first period.

Jason Kidd delivered another off-the-backboard alley-oop pass, feeding Vince Carter for a dunk that gave the U.S. team a 57-26 lead with 1:36 left before halftime.

Allen Iverson tried to duplicate the pass on the Americans' next trip downcourt, but Richard Jefferson was unable to convert the shot. Iverson grabbed the rebound and scored to get the lead above 30.

Tracy McGrady sat out the second half with a sore back, and he was not missed either.

A free throw by Nick Collison with 1:24 left got the lead up to 58, and the Americans finished with their highest point total of their four first-round games.

Iverson led seven American in double figures with 17 points, Jason Kidd had 10 assists and Mike Bibby had nine points, six assists and five steals. The Americans shot 73 percent (33-for-45) from 2-point range.

The U.S. Virgin Islands lost its first two games of the Olympic qualifying tournament to Brazil and the Dominican Republic, but was hoping to have a chance to advance to the second round with a victory Sunday against Venezuela, which was 0-2 going into its game Saturday night against Brazil.

The team has been hurt by the loss of Raja Bell, who decided to skip the tournament and not risk injury because he does not have an NBA contract for the upcoming season. Bell spent last season with the Dallas Mavericks and previously played for Philadelphia.

The United States had not played the Virgin Islands since the 1979 Pan American Games.

''That was a lot of respect he gave us,'' USVI guard Kevin Sheppard said of Duncan. ''We still love him and want him to come home and play for us.''



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