Around the NBA: 01/11/11
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Tim Duncan is no longer "the guy" on the Spurs. First player to interview, first player opposing teams look to stop. The old Tim Duncan was "the guy" of the Spurs offense. The ball, brought up by Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, or a cast of others Duncan played with over his 14-year career found Duncan on nearly every trip up the floor. He was the centerpiece of an offense that yielded four NBA Championships.
The new Tim Duncan is old. Not old in the bran muffin and decaffeinated coffee sense, he's old in the basketball sense. Fourteen years of professional basketball coupled with 170 playoff games will do that to you. Time eventually catches up with your legs and eventually defeats the rest of your body.
With this graybeard status (if a 34-year-old can ever assume such a status) thrust upon the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, Duncan finds himself in a new role with the same team that drafted him out of Wake Forest in 1997. He starts and is a team captain, but Duncan is amassing a career-low in points per game and rebounds per game. As one of the team leaders and distinguished gentleman around the league, Duncan's name still precedes him as an icon of the sport, but he has nicely greased through the doorjamb as the third and sometimes fourth scoring option on the Spurs. Need we mention the team enters the game versus the Bucks with the NBA's best record with Duncan's relegated role?
The mutation of the Spurs has been one of the more interesting subplots to the 2010-2011 campaign. The team's M.O. in years past was to dump the ball down to Duncan and initiate the offense through him. Maybe hit a corner three occasionally, a few drives to the basket by Parker and Ginobli, but for the majority of the action Duncan was the man who commandeered an offense that was overruled by their defense and rebounding.
This year the Spurs exposed a little sizzle in their steak. The Spurs, averaging the third most points per game in the entire league? The Spurs, a nose hair away from hitting 40 percent of their shots outside the three point line? What in the name of remembering the Alamo is going on down in San Antonio?
The switch in the team's offensive philosophy speaks to the success they've attained through this part of the season so far, but in large, it speaks to Duncan's desire to win more than his desire to remain "the guy."
Yea, back to "the guy" status. We've seen players in all sports take some sort of relegated role as their career reaches the autumn of its years, but that comes with the caveat of being dumped by multiple teams (Shaq), or some sort of public blowup about not getting the ball enough (Randy Moss) that expedites their way out of town. As of late, it is rare to see a former superstar acknowledge his diminishing skills and take a relegated role with the team he earned his riches with.
Duncan and Gregg Popovich quietly (That qualifier probably isn't even needed.) went about their business this past off-season of reshaping the Spurs. No spats, no tiffs, nothing major, just some tinkering. In Ginobili, Parker, Duncan, Richard Jefferson, and George Hill, the Spurs have five players averaging in double-digits. Equal opportunity presides in San Antonio.
In the equal opportunity, Duncan's willingness to accept the relegated role with the team makes the Spurs the most formidable competition to the Lakers' run of supremacy in the Western Conference.
The role assumed by Duncan does all but scrub his name off the top of the marquee in hopes of giving San Antonio its best opportunity to win an NBA Title. He has become a company man in the sense that personal numbers are stowed far behind the greater good of team success. That is not to say Duncan is just an added perk to the Spurs in the playoffs. His contributions are a necessity for the Spurs to win in June. His playoff experience is invaluable for such a month. Duncan knows his limitations as a player, which could very well take him from being "the guy" to being "the five-time champion."
Note: These are the views of the 6th Fan Blogger. Thoughts and opinions expressed in this articles are not necessarily the views of the Milwaukee Bucks.