Before Tim Duncan walked off Chesapeake Arena Wednesday night he took the time to hug Kevin Durant and whispered something in his ear. Durant said Duncan basically congratulated the 23-year-old Thunder star for reaching the NBA Finals and wished him good luck.
It was a typical Duncan move. His whole NBA career has been one classy move after another. But at 36 years old time is unfortunately not on his side. He knows full well that the hour glass is almost empty and the clock is ticking on his remarkable Hall-of-Fame career.
“It’s very disappointing . . . very disappointing. I thought this was definitely our time. Our time to get back to The Finals and our time to push for another championship,” said Duncan, who has had a rebirth of sorts this season thanks to an offseason exercise program that helped him drop some weight.
However, Duncan becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer and he should priority No. 1 for the Spurs management headed by general manager R.C. Buford and head coach Gregg Popovich.
The core of the team should remain intact. Parker, Manu Ginobili, Stephen Jackson, Tiago Splitter, Matt Bonner, and Kawhi Leonard are all under contract for next year. Patty Mills has a player option while DaJuan Blair has a team option. But the biggest offseason move that needs to be addressed is Duncan’s contract. Based on several reports, all signs point to Duncan agreeing to an extension and will likely finish his career in San Antonio.
“We’ve been always old, we’ve always been criticized for that and we still compete,” Ginobili said. “We won the West, regular season of course. We are fine. We trust Pop and R.C. to make good decisions, bring good talent. I think they did an unbelievable job this year. I mean we had the best record in the league. We just faced a great young team.”
Although the Spurs does not employ the same post-heavy offense it did 4-5 years ago, make no mistake about it, they will only go as far as Duncan — arguably the greatest power forward in NBA history — takes them.
“He is getting older just like you are and all of us. Tim Duncan is still the backbone of the program,” said Popovich.
Popovich and Duncan have been together for almost two decades, and they know each other so well that they could probably finish each others’ sentences. It’s like the perfect marriage. The taskmaster and the willing pupil. Popovich knows he can’t win a championship without a healthy Duncan, and Duncan knows he’s not the same 20-something player who could dominate the regular season as well as the postseason. But despite all the talk of Duncan’s advanced age and his diminishing numbers, he remains the most important cog in the Spurs machine.
“He’s the guy that we build around. He sets the tone for us, Tony [Parker] and Manu [Ginobili] know that full well,” Popovich said. “We’ve shifted the offense a bit so it’s a little more perimeter oriented the last couple of years. Timmy understands that. But he continues to rebound and play defense.
“We’ve gone to him quite a bit in these playoffs,” Popovich added. “He has taken care of his body, he’s disciplined. He’s a competitive son of a gun, and he’s still one hell of a player.”
Much like Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics, Duncan has discovered the Hot Tub Time Machine. He has had a rebirth of sorts in the 2012 playoffs and believes he has a couple of good years left.
“I feel unbelievable. Better than I’ve ever had in the last four, five years,” Duncan told ESPN‘s Ric Bucher in the second round of the playoffs. “For whatever reason I’m healthy and I feel great.”
Former Spurs player and current TNT analyst Steve Kerr said two years ago he thought Duncan was close to being done. Now Kerr thinks Duncan still has a few good years left. “I hadn’t imagined [Tim] playing at this level,” Kerr said of the three-time MVP.
“He still looks like he’s got plenty left in the tank.”
Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.