Old dog Tim Duncan digs deep for San Antonio Spurs

The veteran centre-forward, with 16 NBA years behind him, has turned back the clock, writes Steve Dilbeck.
San Antonio is a place to Tim Duncan's liking, away from the media spotlight. Kevin Cox / Getty Images
San Antonio is a place to Tim Duncan's liking, away from the media spotlight. Kevin Cox / Getty Images

He kind of walks with his head hung, almost like a tired old man. He has slight limp because of a bad knee. He cannot jump like he once did. Cannot do a lot of things.

But Tim Duncan can still win. He can still come through in the clutch. Can still defy the years and the almost countless games and most all logic.

The San Antonio Spurs centre-forward was a player in decline the past two seasons, his numbers slipping, the 16 NBA years seemingly taking their toll.

Only this season marked something of a rebirth for Duncan, who had his best statistical output in three years. He led a less-than-youthful team to 58 wins.

And now in the play-offs, the two-time MVP has kept it rolling. At age 37, Duncan is playing like someone 10 years younger. He has the Spurs on the verge of returning to the NBA finals for the fifth time. He has never lost an NBA finals.

"I'm not worried about how old I am or whatever, whatever it may be," Duncan said. "I'm very focused on having another opportunity to make it to a championship and try to win."

Duncan has spent his entire career in San Antonio, which probably suits him. It is far from a major market, and Duncan has never enjoyed the media spotlight. His stoic personality fits this out-of-the-way Texas city. It also connected him to Gregg Popovich, the no-nonsense coach.

Duncan is averaging 17.4 points and 9.4 points per game in the play-offs, numbers nearly identical to the regular season (17.9, 9.9). He took control in overtime in the past two games against the Memphis Grizzlies, scoring the first five points in OT Saturday to lead the Spurs to a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference finals (when the piece was written).

"He was huge for us the other night in overtime and got it done for us, and he did it again [on Saturday]," Popovich said. "He's been unbelievable. He feels a responsibility to carry us in those kinds of times, and he did it again."

The Spurs took a 2-0 lead in the West finals last year against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and then lost four straight. Many figured it was a last hurrah for Duncan.

Only here he is again, feeling healthy, using his great fundamentals and basketball intelligence to again emerge as a major force. He is the Kobe Bryant of big men, laughing at the years.

"I don't know if many people at his age have done that in NBA history," guard Tony Parker said.

Duncan grasps his situation.

"This is a special run for me," Duncan said. "I really want to get this one done. I really want to get back to the finals. I want to win another championship."

And so on it goes, the 6-11 Duncan going for one more title.

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Published: May 27, 2013 04:00 AM

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