SAN ANTONIO — Maybe it’s human nature. We like to write endings to other people’s stories.
But just because it might fit into a neat narrative, don’t think that the chance to raise another NBA championship trophy over their heads sometime in the next week should automatically mean Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili will walk out the door and bring an end to the era of the Spurs’ Big Three.
“I don’t have any plans on doing anything,” the 38-year-old Duncan said Saturday. “I’m going to figure it out when it comes. I’m not saying I’m retiring. I’m not saying I’m not retiring. I’m not saying anything. I’m going to figure it out as it goes. I’ve always said if I feel like I’m effective, if I feel like I can contribute, I’ll continue to play. Right now I feel that way, so we’ll see what happens.
Duncan, who is finishing his 17th NBA season, just passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and has now played more playoff minutes (8.869) than any player in history. His 10 points and 11 rebounds in Game 4 of The Finals also moved him ahead of Magic Johnson with 158 double-doubles for the postseason record.
“I don’t have a time frame,” Duncan said. “I don’t think about it. Whatever people are saying or who has insight on whatever, they’re getting it from somewhere else because I haven’t told anybody anything nor have I thought about it in any respect.”
Ginobili dismissed the rumor out of hand.
“You have no data to support that,” he said. “You haven’t talked to any of us to support that. It’s just irrelevant. At this point we are focused on the next game.”
Their 32-year-old partner Tony Parker said he has had no indication that the gang is on verge of breaking up and that he’s looking forward to being on the court with Duncan again next season.
“I know he’s got one more year on his contract, and he loves being with us, loves playing basketball,” Parker said. “Either way, whatever he decides, I’ll support him. But if I have to choose, obviously, I would love him to keep going. I love playing with him.”
For what it’s worth, coach Gregg Popovich has said that he expects Duncan will one day just decide the game is no longer fun and then — “probably in the third quarter of game” — will just walk off the court. Popovich said he’d be “10 minutes behind” Duncan.
But the only coach that Duncan has ever had in the NBA did not sound like he was expecting it all to end, no matter what the outcome of The Finals.
“I don’t feel tired,” Popovich said. “I mean, I’m tired today, but I mean in general. I’d like to continue to coach.”
Beyond this year?
“Sure,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to have to answer those kind of questions today.”
The questions have been swirling for at least five years as the outside world mistakenly viewed the Spurs’ time as past.
“We’ve been on our last run for the last five or six years from how everyone wants to put it,” Duncan said. “We show up every year, and we try to put together the best teams and the best runs possible because what people say doesn’t matter to us.
“As I said, as long as we feel we’re being effective, we’re going to stay out here and we’re going to play. We feel like we can be effective, and we have been.
“With the front office putting the teams together that we’ve had and us playing smaller roles and our roles changing over the years, and us happy to accept the roles that we’re in, I feel we can do it until we feel we don’t want to do it anymore.”