Duncan Not Publicly Planning His Exit


VIDEO: Tim Duncan and the Spurs pick up a big win vs. the Clippers in L.A.

During his news conference with the world’s media just a few minutes before Sunday night’s All-Star Game in New Orleans, Kobe Bryant said he hadn’t given any real thought to when he might finally retire.

“I don’t really want the rocking chair before the game,” he said.

Neither would Tim Duncan.

For 17 NBA seasons now, he’s been about the game and not the showmanship. In winning four championships and two MVP awards, Duncan has been as inscrutable as the Sphinx, keeping his personality walled up within the Spurs locker room, rarely even smiling in public. Except, of course, for that time he supposedly laughed at referee Joey Crawford.

One could more readily imagine Duncan slipping into a shirt of thorns rather than a comfortable public embrace from all corners of the NBA.

That’s why it would be unwise immediately to dismiss the comment made by former NBA coach George Karl, now an ESPN analyst, on SportsCenter:

“You know over the weekend, that was the whispers that I got. I got a couple of phone calls, one from San Antonio that said that Tim Duncan’s thinking this is going to be his last year. The best, most fundamental big guy ever to play in the NBA, and he leaving would make me very, very sad. The San Antonio Spurs without Tim Duncan would be very difficult for me to watch.”

Even as he approaches his 38th birthday in April, it is not at all difficult to watch Duncan play near the incredibly high standard that he has always set for himself. He’s averaging 15.6 points and 10 rebounds per game and has a true shooting percentage of 53.6. His PER of 22.09 ranks 18th in the league, even though he is playing an average of just 29.6 minutes.

In the last game before the All-Star break, Duncan scored 23 of his 25 points in the second half, leading a Spurs lineup that was without Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter to a win at Boston. He has been as sturdy as an oak, starting more games (49) than any other member of the lineup to push San Antonio to the No. 2 seed in the West. In other words, Duncan is still an elite player and likely could have appeared in his 15th All-Star Game if Gregg Popovich hadn’t likely spread the word to his coaching peers that his big man needed a weekend off.

There was a time after the 2011 playoffs, when the No. 1 seeded Spurs were upset by the No. 8 Grizzlies in the first round, that it seemed unfathomable that Duncan would still be playing now. He was slow, worn out, injured and overwhelmed by the inside Memphis tandem of bruising Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.

But Duncan used that humbling experience as a reason to spend the summer changing his diet, changing his workout regimen and ultimately changing his body so that he’s returned to the court lighter, healthier and able to have fun and dominate again. The result was the Spurs going to the Western Conference finals in 2012 and pushing the Heat to the Game 7 limit before losing in the NBA Finals last June.

Duncan signed a three-year, $30-million contract in 2012, the final season a player option and there was talk at the time that he might very well take a pass on that. But since then the Spurs signed Parker and Ginobili to new deals, all of them set to expire at the end of 2014-15, the assumption that the Big Three would take two more cracks at winning the the fifth title in franchise history.

So would Tim walk out the door prematurely on Tony and Manu and Pop?

Only if he feels like the spark and the joy are no longer out there on the court every night. Only if he decides the physical and mental sacrifices to keep himself pushing forward at his high and exacting standards are too much. Which, creeping up on 38, that could happen any day.

So much will depend on how the Spurs and Duncan handle another playoff grind. You can certainly see the championship that slipped through their fingers as a motivational force this time around. But what if the injury-plagued Spurs don’t get back to The Finals for another try at the ring? Or even out of the first or second round?

Even if he’s thinking it, Duncan won’t crack and let us know or share his feelings or an itinerary. He’ll just keep shooting and rebounding and setting screens and doing all those things that make him the Big Fundamental until he doesn’t.

He won’t hit the rocking chair, just the exit door.


VIDEO: Tim Duncan talks about the Spurs’ win against the Clippers

30 Comments

  1. Bruce 15 says:

    GO SURS GO!!!!!! GO Timmy GO Manu GO Tony GO Matt GO Kawhi GO Danny GO Tiago GO Matt with dem New Balance And all da rest of dem

  2. esboa says:

    Karl and Tim, totally different players. Tim more like a subtle center, Karl like a bulldozer, get out of the way tyoe (like Chuck).

    Love’em both though

  3. Bballfan says:

    I mean…you don’t have to retire. You could just keep playing until I die….

  4. George says:

    Wilt, Kareem, Jordan, Russell, Magic, Robertson, James, West, Bird, Shaq

    Baylor, Kobe, Duncan, Karl Malone, Pettit, Olajuwon, Dr. J, Rick Barry, Durant, Moses Malone

    If I was starting a team I would take any of these guys. I look at it like a draft, this Mt. Rushmore thing, who would you pick before somebody else? Could not go wrong with any of them!

    I think Wilt was the best but I did not see him in his prime. Best I ever saw since I started watching basketball in 1969 was a young Lew Alcindor/ Kareem. Totally dominant. Unstoppable, even Wilt couldn’t check him and Wilt was still a 1st team All-NBA defender at the end of his career.

  5. John Ward says:

    The greatest power forward of all time. Barkley who should be in that argument and knows more about basketball than any of us common fans played against Malone, and he has watched them both their entire careers. If Barkley and Mark Jackson and guys like that who KNOW the NBA say Duncan is the greatest ever, you have to agree with them. Malone was a good scorer, but Duncan has been the anchor of the defense and the best player for the Spurs dynasty. 4 and half rings, if Manu or Kwahi make a free throw at the end of game 6, Duncan would already have number 5.

  6. Henrik Jensen says:

    i think that when Tim Dunan retires, then Gregg Pop will do the same..

  7. Henrik Jensen says:

    Don’t Count out Kevin Garnett in the mix of best PF in history, evendough he is more of a all-position kind of player..

  8. CCB says:

    It’s just stupid to claim Duncan is better than Malone as the all-time greatest PF, go and read some history. Winning championships doesn’t make you an all-time great, if the Spurs had played in the Bulls dynasty era they would not have gotten a single ring..

    • NBA FAN says:

      I think your right when you claim it’s is not just with Winning championships that will determine if a player is the greatest of all time, and I will not argue if Tim is a better player than Karl, but you can’t say it is impossible too! I think it’s hard to tell which one was the greatest cause they are really different player and they were fit for the team they play with. So i would say It’s propable the spurs would won less championchip in the area of the bull, but i think the spurs team is realy well coach and could have won at least one with popovich (just look what they do with the present team old and injurded simply realy great coaching). Don’t get me wrong i don’t say the jazz wasn’t good they were great but i give a litle hedge for the spurs, but it’s just what i think i could be wrong and we will never know :)

      • NBA FAN says:

        By the way if you want some point for why tim “could” be better I’ll go more than just stats like you.I really think Tim’s better at the defensive ends, obviously for now Karl was better at the offence but think of the PG? Would you prefer to have Parker or Stockton if your a PF? Parker’s really good, but for me i would go all the way with Stockton and you? Thats part of why i think it’s hard to compare them too much thing to consider :)

  9. Wilson says:

    It’ll be a sad day when Timmy retires. I’ll be crying like a girl when that day finally comes. T_________T

  10. Spurs Fan says:

    Yess!!! Awesome article!!! Go timmy GO!!! USVI BABY!!!!

  11. Calvin says:

    Don’t be surprised that Spurs wins it all this year. If there’s any truth to this being his last I expect the Spurs to make a run for title this year. This is a team that is driven and info like that will be motivation for Pop and that entire org to have the best player – still playing at an astronomically high level – leave with fireworks. This is nothing beyond this group to achieve – Watch out the rest of NBA . . .

  12. Derrick says:

    My fav player of all time. Really hopes that he can get his fifth ring before he retires and break the tie with SHAQ ….. However there seems to be some spark still lacking in the team for them to win a championship again …… But it is a remarkable that they qualify for the playoffs every year

  13. Irene Adler says:

    He is Tim Duncan and I don’t see him joining another team to win a ring. He will retire as Spurs. Go Timmy. You are one of the greatest players ever to play the game.

  14. Stop that nonsense (go to miami so he can win rings) stuff! your making all miami fans silly!
    but i dont think hes gonna win a ring anymore last years finals is his last chance to win another ring
    but still much respect for the forever professional tim duncan
    thank you for a great show! one of the best Forward that eve play in nba
    i wish he retires with a healthy body! not retire because he ends his career with a injury!
    god bless!

    • wew says:

      yeah, it’s better to retire with healthy body than with injury. otherwise, he could end like the others who plays while constantly being injured

  15. Juventus For Life says:

    duncan to miami for his 6th ring

  16. Al says:

    The best power forward in the history of the game…
    I pray to god that he retires with his fifth ring.

    • allaroundballer says:

      Modern bball
      1st team
      C abdul jabbar
      PF duncan
      SF bird
      SG jordan
      PG johnson
      2nd team
      C olajuwon
      PF malone
      SF james
      SG bryant
      PG stockton

      Olajuwon/oneal, stockton/thomas are the most intriguing pick

      • Another Heat Fan says:

        You are going to leave wilt chamberlin, bill russel, and oscar robertson out of your first and second teams?

        And I really believe Iverson is the most underrated hall of famer. The second most underrated hall of famer is isiah thomas.

        Being a point guard with a smaller body playing at such a legendary standard of play. I mean i would put iverson above isiah as well because no one iverson’s size has ever been as prolific a scorer as him. It’s ridiculous that someone so small could make such a huge impact. And out of all the players in the hall of fame that dont have a ring, allen iverson is the most tragic. If only he had a decent team…

        I’ll put iverson in that second team, because magic johnson has to be in that first team, but i do it with a grimace because even that doesn’t feel very fair. Magic wasn’t a point guard he had the size of a forward with the skills of a guard in running the offense (much like lebron is now). Magic johnson could play any position but he’s just listed at pointguard to make a historic impression. But the ultimate pure pointguard is Allen Iverson.

      • LOL says:

        Wow you just said AI is the ultimate pure PG???!!! LOL saaaay what

    • Brian I.E. says:

      AMEN!!

      I hope the basketball gods hook him up!!