PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:
Is this the final season of the Duncan era Spurs?
Tim Duncan will turn 40 during this season, his 19th.
That’s a lot of miles on his legs.
The past couple summers, after the Spurs’ season ended, Duncan would take some time off — likely to hang out at an auto shop — and collect his thoughts. He considered walking out on top after 2014. He thought about it again after the Clippers bounced the Spurs in the first round last spring. Both times he chose to return.
Will it be different this time? Is this the final season of the legendary Tim Duncan era Spurs?
Probably. But it’s not like Duncan is tipping his hand.
If this is it, like Gregg Popovich himself, we will all be a little sad.
But nobody knows if this is it — not even Duncan. He may have a sense of what he wants to do, but he is going to see how this season plays out, how he feels next spring, then make a decision. Last season he was so consistent, was given enough rest, and the Spurs were still contenders, so he felt he could keep going — and more importantly keep contributing at a high level.
It’s not just Duncan, if he walks away Manu Ginobili likely steps away. Ginobili is physically fading faster; this is likely his last season regardless.
Duncan’s career stats are mind-boggling. He has played 18 seasons and never once missed the playoffs. The Spurs have won at least 50 games every one of those seasons except for the lockout 1998-99 season when they only played 50 games — that season they won 37 (a 60-win pace in a normal season) and won the NBA title. Duncan has won five championships, two MVPs and three Finals MVPs. He’s a 15-time All-Star and 15-time All-NBA team member.
He will go down as the greatest power forward to ever play the game when he steps away (with all due respect to Karl Malone, Kevin McHale, and whoever else you want to throw in the conversation). His legacy is set.
This is a transition year, as the Spurs evolve from the Tim Duncan/Tony Parker/Manu Ginobili Spurs to the Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge’s version. Duncan can hang up his sneakers after an unprecedented run of success and know that the Spurs winning tradition will continue (especially since Gregg Popovich says he will continue to coach beyond when Duncan retires).
But Duncan isn’t going to decide until the Spurs season ends — he hopes in mid-June after another boat parade down the Riverwalk. Whenever he decides, the Spurs will likely announce it in a press release and Duncan will try to avoid any fanfare around it.
But that’s how we’ll all find out.