See that smile? So much for Tim Duncan never showing emotion.
And after the San Antonio Spurs’ huge Game 5 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night, the future Hall-of-Famer explained the genesis of the grin above and many recent others – he’s simply taking time to savor enjoyment of his final playing days.
Here’s Duncan via Yahoo Sports’ Marc Spears:
“It’s just a realization of mortality, I guess,” Duncan told Yahoo Sports late Tuesday. “I know my time is winding down so I’m enjoying it more.”
“I know I am blessed to be out here,” he said. “I know I am blessed to still be playing and feeling as healthy as I am. So I’m enjoying the ride.”
The 39 year-old’s contract expires after this season. And though Gregg Popovich expects his esteemed pupil to return for at least one more season, the Spurs still made contingency plans available just in case Duncan decides otherwise – their decision to hold off on extending Kawhi Leonard in October directly related to Old Man River Walk’s indeterminate future.
It goes without saying that Duncan could play well into his 40s. For all those decrying his selection as an All-Star reserve back in February, the 18-year veteran’s early playoff performance is an undeniable indication of just how effective he remains in old age.
Duncan is averaging 17.2 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.8 steals, and 2.0 blocks per game on 55.4 percent shooting against the Clippers. His 23.5 PER would be his best since the 2009 playoffs, and he’s making plays like this in crunch-time of a potentially season-defining game:
If this San Antonio postseason run is really Duncan’s swan song, though, what matters far more than his performance is his peace of mind. Legends like him deserve to not only go out on their own terms, but do so with an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction – on-court impact be damned.
Fortunately for Timmy and the Spurs, however, he’s currently reaping benefits from the best of both worlds.
*Statistical support for this post courtesy of basketball-reference.com