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Spurs may be improved, but they’re still a project

SHARE Spurs may be improved, but they’re still a project

Sean Elliott doesn't wear a hard hat, nor does he carry a lunch pail.

San Antonio's starting small forward does, however, find himself in the middle of a massive construction project - twin towers.On one side stands 32-year-old David Robinson. The former NBA MVP was in need of restoration after missing 76 games with injuries last season. Work on the 7-foot-1 center is complete and deemed successful. Robinson has yet to miss a game and is averaging 24 points and 12 rebounds for the Midwest Division leaders.

San Antonio is also pleased with the progress of its other tower - Rookie of the Year front-runner Tim Duncan. The 7-foot pivotman from Wake Forest is leading NBA newcomers with 15.3 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.

The duo has the Spurs well on their way to heights greater than last season's 20 victories. Though, as proven by lopsided losses Friday at Seattle (94-74) and Saturday at Utah (103-74), there's still plenty of work still to be done in San Antonio.

"We're going to have growing pains," said Elliott, who reminded reporters the Spurs are running a new offense geared toward Duncan. "He's learning the game and he'll just get better and better. Tim has a tremendous upside."

The past 48 hours, though, have been more like an uphill climb for the prized rookie.

In Seattle, Vin Baker made his first seven shots against Duncan en route to a game-high 22 points. And last night in the Delta Center, Duncan was plagued by early foul trouble and held to single-digit scoring (nine points) for the second straight game. He was outplayed by Jazz frontcourters Karl Malone and Greg Foster in the decisive first half. The Utah duo teamed for 25 points and 13 rebounds, while Duncan had just five points and four boards at the intermission, with San Antonio trailing 58-35.

"He's still young. He'll take his lickings and he's going to give some. That's just part of being in this league," said Elliott. "But he's going to win more battles than he's going to lose."

Elliott praised Duncan's ability to remain focused despite having "a big spotlight on him."

San Antonio coach Gregg Popo- vich agrees.

"Tim Duncan's progress has been steady," he said. "He's been doing a lot of the little things that help us win. He's developing all the time."

Even on an off-night, Duncan said there's something to be gained.

"I just learn more about the NBA game every time I play."