Tim Duncan, after winning his fifth championship, faces retirement questions

19 Comments

imageimageimage

Tim Duncan jumped into David Robinson’s arms.

Just like 1999, when they celebrated their first championships.

Just like 2003, when they celebrated another title and Robinson’s retirement.

In 2014, it’s too late for any more beginnings. Is this another end?

Long after Robinson closed the Spurs’ Twin Towers chapter, Duncan is still celebrating championships with him.

Duncan has transcended eras, winning with Robinson as his partner in crime then with a guard attack led by Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili and now with Kawhi Leonard winning Finals MVP. Robinson, meanwhile, is enjoying retirement and showing up for closeout games in San Antonio.

It’s a blessed life for both.

When Duncan entered the NBA in 1997, Robinson mentored him. Duncan was such a quick learner and skilled player, Robinson was the last of Duncan’s teammates to carry more-impressive credentials than him. That’s why Robinson holds such a special place to Duncan.

Might Duncan follow his mentor again now?

Robinson was the last Hall of Famer to retire after a championship season, going out on top in 2003. Duncan could do the same this year.

Asked whether it would be difficult to walk away from such a strong team, Duncan said, “Uh, yeah.” But he quickly shut down the discussion.

“I’m guessing you’re leading me into a question that I’m not going to answer,” Duncan said. “So, I will just go ahead and avoid that one.”

Unlike Duncan – who faces a June 24 deadline to exercise his player option – Robinson announced his retirement before his last championship season. Well before he celebrated in 2003, everyone knew that was the end.

If Duncan never plays again, that would be a huge surprise.

Like Robinson, Duncan remained a reliable contributor through his most recent season. Robinson hit several career lows in 2003, but dropping from such a high peak, he remeained a reliable starter. Of the nine Hall of Famers who won a championship in their last season,* none had played as effectively in their final season in more than 30 years.

*David Robinson (2003 Spurs), Mitch Richmond (2002 Lakers), Robert Parish (1997 Bulls), Sam Jones(1969 Celtics), Bill Russell (1969 Celtics), Tom Heinsohn (1965 Celtics), Clyde Lovellette (1964 Celtics), Frank Ramsey (1964 Celtics) and Bill Sharman (1961 Celtics)

Robinson went out on top, but he also went out still playing well.

I suspect that Robinson did so is the main reason so much speculation exists about Duncan following suit. (And the fact that Duncan is 38.)

But Robinson backed himself into a corner – perhaps for the very purpose of not giving himself a chance to second-guess the decision – by announcing his retirement so far in advance. Duncan has not, and as he admitted, it would be very difficult to walk away from all this.

Throughout his post-game interviews, Duncan gave somewhat-conflicting hints about his future.

Asked why he was especially emotional after this title, he said “Just the close of a career. I know it’s coming to an end. I don’t know if I’ll ever have a chance to do this again.”

But he also said, “I’ve always said, as long as I feel I’m going to be effective, I’m going to want to play. And I still feel effective.”

Duncan has now become just the third player to win titles 15 years apart – and the only to do so with the same team.

image

Parish retired after his final championship, but by then, he was a bench-warmer with the Bulls.

Abdul-Jabbar returned for one more season after his last title and again reached the Finals. His Lakers were swept by the Pistons, but he received one last standing ovation on the game’s biggest stage as he exited for the final time.

I suspect Duncan will be back next season – and not for the sendoff.

For another championship.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says Stephen Curry is the best player in the world

WhatsApp's "Naija Odyssey" New York Premiere
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
0 Comments

Giannis Antetokounmpo is at the top of pretty much every “best player in the world” list right now.

Except his own.

For Antetokounmpo, the best player in the world is the one that leads his team to the title, so today, it is Stephen Curry (hat tip to Lance Allen of NBC Milwaukee).

It’s easy to see where Antetokounmpo is coming from, but basketball is a team game. The best player may not be on the best team, despite his skill set, and that team may not win. Curry was spectacular in leading the Warriors to their fourth banner since he arrived, he’s near the top of the best in the world list, but it’s not all about winning.

The takeaway from what Antetokounmpo said is how much he wants to win — he wants a second ring.

The Bucks enter the season as one of the favorites to win that ring, but it’s going to take a lot of things going right for that to happen.

Including Antetokounmpo showing he is the best player in the world.

 

Is Matisse Thybulle ready for a big step forward with 76ers?

Pregame of Philadelphia 76ers vs Miami Heat
Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
0 Comments

Matisse Thybulle brings a valuable NBA skill to the table — he is an elite perimeter defender. Two-time All-Defensive Team in three years in the league.

But when the 76ers got up against Miami in the playoffs, Thybulle’s role shrank dramatically. While Doc Rivers needed his defense, Thybulle’s lack of an offensive game became a problem — the Heat largely ignored him and helped off him, allowing Miami to muck up the Philly offense (he was limited in the Toronto series because he was not vaccinated and could not play in road games). The 76ers tried to solve that problem this offseason by bringing in DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker — solid role-playing defenders who can contribute on offense, too.

Thybulle wants to be part of the solution, too, and told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he spent the summer focused on his offensive game.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

No doubt Thybulle put in the work, we will find out soon if it paid off — and if that will get Thybulle paid.

Thybulle is entering a contract year — the 76ers can extend him up until Oct. 18, after which he would become a restricted free agent next summer. Thybulle said his goal is to remain in Philadelphia (and he’d like an extension).

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

With a win-now Sixers team, Daryl Morey may be in a wait-and-see place with Thybulle, letting the market set his price next offseason. If he signs now, it will likely be on a team-friendly deal (but maybe one that still works for the 25-year-old).

If Thybulle gets on the court this season and shows an improved offensive game, one where he can make teams pay for helping off him, his price goes up and there may be multiple teams bidding for his services next summer. And Doc Rivers would be happy in the short term.

It’s up to Thybulle to prove it now.

 

Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

Orlando Magic v Charlotte Hornets
Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images
0 Comments

The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.

 

Vintage Kobe: Redeem Team recalls him running over Pau Gasol

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
0 Comments

If the goal of a trailer is to get you to want to see the movie, then well done Netflix. I’m in.

Netflix released a trailer for its upcoming Redeem Team documentary on the 2008 Olympics, featuring some vintage Kobe Bryant. Just as a quick refresher, in 2008 the USA’s toughest opponent would be a deep Spanish team led by peak Pau Gasol but also with Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, José Calderón, Rudy Fernández, Juan Carlos Navarro and more. This was a legitimately dangerous team and one the USA would face first in group play.

Kobe wanted to set a tone — and did by running through his friend Gasol. (Warning: There is NSFW language in the video clip below.)

“‘First play of the game I’m running through Pau Gasol.’ And we was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘First play of the game, I know what they’re gonna run.’ And he knew Pau was gonna be the last screen and he said ‘I’m running through him,'” Dwayne Wade said

Spoiler alert: The USA thrashed Spain in group stage play. However, come the Gold Medal game it was a lot tougher for the Americans to beat the Spaniards, with Kobe having to have a big fourth quarter and — what often goes unremembered — a master class from Chris Paul in game management to control the tempo and flow.

I’m all in for the documentary, which drops on Oct. 7 on Netflix.