Lakers and Thunder Should Beware of Rejuvenated Tim Duncan
The difference between a great player and a legend is oftentimes a matter of longevity. From Tracy McGrady to Kobe Bryant or Gilbert Arenas to Gary Payton, the disparity in legacy is colossal in range.
Although easy to spot, there are few active players that fall under the label of "legend." Of the scarce, however, there is one man who has set himself apart from the rest and become the near unanimous choice for the greatest power forward in NBA history.
Duncan is a four-time NBA champion, three-time Finals MVP, two-time league MVP and 13-time All-Star. He has garnered 13 All-NBA selections, including nine first-team appearances.
Duncan has an additional 13 All-Defensive team appointments, and he is the owner of the 2000 All-Star Game MVP and the 1998 NBA Rookie of the Year awards.
Clearly, we could spend the duration of this article praising Duncan for what he has already achieved. The fact of the matter is, there is no free pass for present-day failures based off of what one has already accomplished.
Fortunately for Tim Duncan, he is dominating the present day as if it were 2002 or 2003, when he won his consecutive league MVP awards.
Due to this rejuvenation of a 15-year career, the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder must beware. After all, this would be the third consecutive season that the Spurs have finished atop the Western Conference at the end of the regular season.
With Duncan back in Hall of Fame form, this simply means the Spurs are in for postseason success, as well.
Big Time Timmy
Who will finish the regular season atop the Western Conference?
Through two games, the San Antonio Spurs are 2-0. Most importantly, their leader is playing at an MVP-caliber level.
It just depends on if you want to select Tim Duncan or Tony Parker for that label.
Any arguments can face Duncan's averages of 22.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.0 blocks per game. If that's not enough for you, simply evaluate the quality of opponents Duncan has taken to school.
Against Serge Ibaka and the Oklahoma City Thunder, Duncan put up 20 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Against Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Hornets, T.D. posted 24 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three blocks.
Although two games is hardly a reasonable sample size, it is a clear reflection on what type of numbers Duncan is capable of producing.
If Duncan has proven anything in his illustrious career, it is that he is a man of consistency. While his numbers may dip a bit, this is a quality look at what type of production Duncan could put forth on a nightly basis in 2012-13.
If not, it offers insight into what the former Wake Forest Demon Deacon is known for: big-time numbers when the games matter most.
Where Duncan Goes, Spurs Go
Not only is Tim Duncan one of the greatest players in NBA history, but he's a legendary leader, as well. Such has been on display since his first year in the league, when Duncan led the Spurs to an appearance in the Western Conference semifinals.
Just one year removed from a season in which the Spurs went 20-62.
Since then, the Spurs have made the postseason in every year Duncan has been a member of the franchise. Whether he's producing at a high level or struggling to fill it up, Duncan's poise in the closing minutes have consistently led to victories.
Victories that have made modern-day legends out of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Victories that have helped Gregg Popovich carve out a legacy as one of the greatest coaches in NBA history.
The Spurs go as Duncan goes. Unfortunately for the Lakers and Thunder, Duncan is prepared to go all the way to a fifth career NBA championship.
The More They Change, the More the Spurs Stay the Same
The Los Angeles Lakers have added two new starters, a sixth man and a lead reserve. For those keeping track, that's Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks.
All of whom are expected to replace the players who would have filled their respective roles in 2012.
The Oklahoma City Thunder, meanwhile, traded reigning Sixth Man of the Year award winner James Harden for Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb. Although under-reported, this makes the Thunder an equally as likely candidate to suffer a learning curve in terms of building team chemistry.
Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs, meanwhile, may as well have made a copy of the roster they played a year ago.
Chemistry is not an issue in San Antonio. In fact, it is one of the greatest strengths of a team that has won four NBA championships since 1999 with virtually the same core.
The same core that led the Spurs to the best record in the NBA and a Western Conference finals appearance in 2012.
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