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Kerr is again a factor in Spurs' equation to capture championship

THE BALTIMORE SUN

SAN ANTONIO -- Things are certainly looklng up these days for San Antonio Spurs guard Steve Kerr.

"I didn't think I'd have my own podium at the Finals. I've arrived," Kerr said jokingly yesterday while greeting the media after practice.

Game 1 of the NBA Finals is tonlght.

Kerr, 37, in his 15th NBA season, played so infrequently in the first three rounds of the Western Conference playoffs that he nicknamed himself "Ted," likening himself to Ted Williams, the late Boston Red Sox outfielder whose remains have been frozen by his son.

Kerr played a total of 12 minutes in the first 17 San Antonio playoff games this. year, but he climbed out of cold storage in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Dallas Mavericks.

There, substituting for an ailing Tony Parker and an ineffective Speedy Claxton, Kerr played 13 minutes in the third and fourth quarters, hitting four three-point shots and providing calm and stability for a jittery Spurs team that came from 15 down to beat the Mavericks and win the series.

Kerr, who has twice led the league in three-point shooting by percentage, as well as capturing the Three-Point Shoot-out at the 1997 All-Star Game, points out that he did get quality minutes this season as a backup to Parker, when Claxton mlssed 48 games with a shoulder injury.

But at this stage of the game, Kerr knows his role in San Antonio and accepts it gladly. In doing so, he just might add a fifth NBA title ring to his jewelry collection to go with the three straight he earned with Chicago from 1995 to 1998 and the one with the Spurs in 1999.

"It's weird. I look at guys like Jason Kidd, John Stockton, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley," said Kerr. "They're 100 times better players than I am, but they've never won a title. That tells me that there's a lot of luck involved. You have to be at the right place at the right time. A lot of things have to go your way, and I've been lucky to be on some great teams.

"But I've tried to stay ready and hopefully come through when I got a shot. I'm lucky to have played with Michael [Jordan] and Scottie [Pippen]. I'm lucky to have played with Tim [Duncan] and David [Robinson]. That's the way to win championships. You get on the right team."

Togetherness

The Spurs really take the notion of togetherness to its fullest. At least that's what you could glean from Robinson's answer about how he has ceded the leadership mantle to Duncan.

"I kind of liken it to a marriage," said Robinson, who is retiring after thls season. "Your wife can do things because she's different from you, she'll do things that will kind of wear on your nerves or you can take up an understanding that there are things to complement, there are things that I'm not as strong at that she is.

"You know, you could say, that helps me out, you know what you complete me, and that's how it is with Tim Duncan. You can say, you know what Tim? You complete me, you're the balance."

Et cetera

During their days in the ABA, the Nets and Spurs met 60 times, with each winning 30 .... Lisa Marie Presley will sing "The Star Spangled Banner" before tonight's Game 1 .... At 21, San Antonio's Parker will be the second-youngest point guard to start an NBA Finals, trailing former Los Angeles Laker Magic Johnson, who started the 1980 NBA Finals at the age of 20.

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