Popovich: Duncan returns 'even slimmer' and fitter than last year on eve of 14th season

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Tim Duncan is no longer getting better with age, but he's apparently getting slimmer and fitter.

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Thursday that Duncan returned this summer for his 14th season perhaps in even better shape than a year ago, when the perennial All-Star reported to training camp 15 pounds lighter.

"He's trim and slim. I think he's even slimmer than he was last year," Popovich said. "He's really serious about this. He knows his responsibilities. He wants to win again."

Popovich met with reporters in San Antonio for the first time since Phoenix swept the Spurs from the Western Conference semifinals in May. He'll open training camp Sept. 27 with Duncan, who turns 35 this season, leading what is a mostly unchanged Spurs roster.

San Antonio is still built to go only as far as Duncan can take them. But he'll get some long-overdue frontcourt help with the addition of 7-footer Tiago Splitter, the marquee signing for the Spurs in an otherwise quiet offseason.

Originally drafted by the Spurs in 2007, Splitter is a former MVP and championship winner in the Spanish League. He joins the Spurs amid high expectations — Popovich compared Splitter's NBA-readiness to Manu Ginobili's arrival in 2002.

That doesn't mean Splitter will be a go-to scorer. Popovich said the Brazilian's biggest impact will instead be rebounding and defense, but those contributions should be immediate.

"He'll come in running, so to speak, and not have a problem," Popovich said.

Popovich didn't say how much lighter Duncan might have come back. But like last summer, Duncan pushed back and toned down his old preseason regiments in hopes of keeping his body fresher come spring.

Duncan got off to a roaring start in the playoffs last year against Dallas though still finished the season averaging 17.9 points and 10.1 rebounds, both career lows. He has two years left on his contract.

Ginobili, 33, is starting a new three-year extension while Tony Parker isn't signed past this season.

"Fantastic means have an opportunity to win a championship, and that's what we're always looking for here," Popovich said. "There's no reason why this group can't do it, but there are also probably 10 teams in the league that feel they have that opportunity."