If San Antonio wins it all this time, Duncan just might decide to retire and go out on top. On Friday, Cuban explained his thinking on 105.3 The Fan's Ben and Skin Show (per ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon):
I want San Antonio to win. I want Tim Duncan to hit a game-winning shot to win Game 7, then go to the Finals, do the exact same thing, hit a game-winning shot in Game 7, run down the tunnel, never to be seen from again. I want him to retire on the spot. I hope he gets that last ring and it’s all the incentive he needs to retire.
Duncan's retirement would theoretically make it a little easier for Cuban's Dallas Mavericks to contend for their own title. The Spurs knocked the Mavs out of the postseason in a classic, seven-game first-round series.
Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki is looking for one more ring, himself. At 35, Nowitzki's days are numbered, and so too are his chances to bring home another title.
Now 38, Duncan's days would appear to be even more numbered. But the Big Fundamental is aging gracefully, averaging 16.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 33.1 minutes through 14 playoff games. He scored 27 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
His feelings on retirement remain somewhat of a mystery at the moment. Back in February, George Karl told ESPN's SportsCenter (via Project Spurs' Paul Garcia), "I got a couple of phone calls, one from San Antonio that said that Tim Duncan's thinking this is going to be his last year."
Duncan subsequently denied that he was leaning one way or the other, according to Spurs Nation's Mike Monroe: "I’d like to know who he talked to. I don’t know what I’m going to do so I don’t know how he knows what I’m going to do."
He echoed that sentiment later in March, saying he was taking the decision "game-by-game."
After Game 1 against the Mavericks, Duncan suggested that he might not be ready to hang it up.
Reassuring to hear Tim Duncan say he has only "a couple more" playoff runs in him. Would seemingly suggest this is not his last then. Right?— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) April 20, 2014
Having the ability to make another couple of runs doesn't necessarily translate into having the interest, however. It remains to be seen whether Duncan is truly committed to returning or just speculating that he's entirely capable of doing so.
Duncan has a player option worth over $10.3 million to return for the 2014-15 campaign.
Whatever Duncan decides to do, we may not have much forewarning. As CBSSports.com's Matt Moore notes, he's not the type to solicit attention:
Duncan's not going to give anyone the opportunity to honor him. There will probably not be a farewell tour. He'll simply be playing in the NBA one day, and not be playing in the NBA the next. And we'll likely never hear from him again, outside of a short speech at his Hall of Fame induction.
When the day finally comes, the post-Duncan era will be a strange one for San Antonio. Tony Parker could stick around for the foreseeable future, and 22-year-old Kawhi Leonard appears ready to shoulder increased responsibility. But it won't be easy even for this team to recover from the loss of one of the greatest to ever play the game.