This season might not be the last that Tim Duncan’s All-Star selection is met with such scrutiny. In a story by Sam Amick of USA Today, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says he believes the five-time champion will play in 2015-2016.
“No matter how (the season) ends, I think Timmy is going to look at (retirement) again,” Popovich told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. “And if you ask me, my guess is that he’ll go for another one because he has been so consistent this season.
“It’s just consistent stuff: another double-double, over and over and over again. Because of that, I think in his mind that if it continues through the rest of the year, I think he’ll say, ‘I’m going to go another year and see what happens.’ Because what he has told me 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. It might be during the third quarter of a game.
“He’s not going to hang on to finish a contract or make the money or have the notoriety that you know he doesn’t give a (expletive) about. So the way he’s playing now, he’s going to look in the mirror and say, ‘Hey, I’m doing all right.’ “
Did you hear that? ‘Twas our loud sigh of relief from the Bay Area.
Duncan’s future playing status has been uncertain for the past couple of seasons. After the Spurs won another championship last June, we wouldn’t have been surprised if the 38 year-old decided to call it quits and await Hall-of-Fame induction.
But Duncan loves the game and is hungry for more titles. And fortunately for the Spurs and unlike contemporaries such as Kobe Bryant or Kevin Garnett, he remains one of the most impactful players in basketball – despite the modest per-game numbers that sparked outcry when the coaches named him a Western Conference All-Star last week.
Throw out counting stats with Duncan. Not only does he play low minutes, but his impact just can’t be encapsulated by simple box score numbers. For those of you hung up on his relative mediocrity there, though, consider that he’s one of just 14 players in basketball averaging a double-double. More impressive: Duncan joins Pau Gasol as one of only two players notching at least 17.0 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per-36 minutes this season.
But where Duncan’s immense value most lies is the defensive end of the floor. It’s a minor miracle that San Antonio ranks fourth in defensive rating at 99.9 points per 100 possessions given that Kawhi Leonard has missed more than a third of the schedule and so many other players have been out for significant chunks of it, too. And like Popovich’s brilliant scheming deserves unceasing adulation, so does Duncan’s defensive impact.
Opponents shoot 46.7 percent against him at the rim, the league’s eleventh best mark. Players make 4.6 percent fewer shots than their collective average when he’s defending them. The Spurs’ defensive efficiency is 1.2 points better when he’s on the floor and 1.4 points worse when he’s riding the pine. And he leads the NBA in Defensive Real Plus-Minus.
Duncan, in his eighteenth season, is a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate and viable offensive hub.
If Popovich is right and Timmy won’t retire until he’s a detriment to San Antonio, his career’s sunset is barely visible on the horizon. Thank god, too. We can’t imagine the league without him.
*Statistical support for this post provided by nba.com/stats.
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