Tim Duncan on evaluating his future. pic.twitter.com/jIoRk0UnsP
— CBS Sports NBA (@CBSSportsNBA) May 13, 2016
What did you expect? For a saddened Tim Duncan to announce his retirement mere minutes after his hopes of a sixth championship were dashed in shocking fashion? Or for the 40-year-old to say he’s returning next season and remains wildly optimistic about getting the San Antonio Spurs another title?
Either way, assuming Duncan would give a concrete answer on his future following the Spurs’ season-ending loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder was setting yourself up for disappointment. The far more likely scenario was always that he’d give a non-committal, sarcastic response when asked by reporters – maybe something like thinking about retirement after he “gets out of here and figures life out,” actually.
Duncan, by the way, played his best basketball of the series in Game 6 after looking every bit his age in previous games against the Thunder. The future Hall of Famer scored 19 points – the first time he reached double-figures throughout the playoffs – and grabbed five rebounds on Thursday, keeping the Spurs’ hopes of a long-shot, late-game comeback alive with inspired play in the second half.
A few months ago, Gregg Popovich told USA Today he believed Duncan would play another season because he was clearly still an effective player. After the least impactful playoff series of his hallowed career, though, subsequent caution of the San Antonio coach suggests Duncan calling it quits is a far more likely scenario than it seemed during the regular season.
“What [Duncan] has told me,” Popovich said, “is that the minute he feels like he’s a hindrance to his team or he’s not on the positive end or helping him, he’s going to walk right off the court.”
That didn’t happen on Thursday night. Duncan played to the final buzzer in Game 6, and shared long embraces with both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook after his 19th season had officially come to a close.
It wasn’t the ending a player of his caliber deserved. In a way, however, leaving everything on the floor and paying ultimate respect to the game would be a fitting way for a legend like Duncan to finally go.