“It was just another night,” Tim Duncan answered as a reporter asked him about his near triple-double against the Knicks on a Friday night ESPN showing. While the reporter was trying to elicit some kind of “wow” from Duncan by giving him that stat, Duncan answered the question simply and to the point, not allowing narcissism to creep in even for a second.
It is just not his style, and the 34-year-old showed once again that he was very capable of having a big night even when many writers and analysts have pinned the Spurs 38-7 start on a faster, more up-tempo style of play that has enabled players like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to go off on some nights.
Sure, the Spurs approach to things has certainly changed when you consider the more methodical, dump-it-down-low style that made them a powerhouse for the last decade, but make no mistake about it, even with a new game plan, Duncan remains the rock of the San Antonio Spurs. Manu Ginobili has been getting a lot of MVP talk, and he absolutely deserves it—but this is still Duncan’s team.
The Spurs now appear primed to finally, fairly challenge the Lakers for the Western Conference crown as well as a championship. This is not to say that the Lakers bent the rules in some way when they faced the Spurs last in the playoffs, the last time these two teams met (’08 in the Western finals), but now the Spurs are hoping they will have a fully healthy squad (not a one-legged Ginobili like last time) to challenge the best of the West.
Sure, a lot can happen in the meantime. The Thunder could pick it up, the Jazz could stop losing to less than stellar squads, and the Mavs could somehow get the 2003-2004 version of Peja Stojakovic back when they inevitably sign him. However, as of right now, if the playoffs were to start today, the Spurs and Lakers would be preparing for an epic battle of a playoff series.
This begs the question as to how Tim Duncan would be seen with a fistful of rings. He is already considered one of the best to play the game and Karl Malone is his only competition when it comes to “Best Power Forward Ever” debates, but would one ring really change minds that much? He already has four, making the Spurs organization one of the most successful franchises in all of sports, but would five dramatically influence a good chunk of fans’ opinions?
Part of me tends to believe that it would not. He has already proven he can win with anyone (Jaren Jackson anyone?) by his side. He knows how to come up big in clutch games (a near quadruple double in Game 6 vs. the Nets in the NBA Finals in 2003), and he has a patented bank shot that many post players envy.
Everybody knows that this guy is already one of the all-time greats; most players do not get one ring, let alone four, in their lifetimes.
However, a large part of me believes that this would make him an instant “Top Five of All Time” player if he were to somehow snatch another Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Think of it this way, from a talent perspective when it comes to rings, there are few in his way. Spurs fans love Robert Horry for his heroics in 2005, but no one would ever say that they thought Big Shot Rob was a better player because he had seven rings.
The only players that have more rings and are definitely deserving of “Best Ever” status are Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, Dennis Rodman, Magic Johnson and George Mikan.
Now, that might sound like a lot of names ahead of him, but it really is not. Out of those 10 players, only one of them is currently playing (Bryant). This is why NBA fans should really take every opportunity they can to see Tim Duncan during the few years he has left in the league. It has been well established that he is not a sexy kind of player, but if you cherish effective, selfless basketball, look no further than this individual.
If he were to win another ring, the last years of both Duncan and Kobe would feature some of the fiercest battles between the two even in their elder age. How could you not love two guys in their mid-30s diving out of the gate instead of taking a victory bow with the last couple years of their careers?
There is still plenty of the season to go, and the Spurs could absolutely sustain a major injury to one of their stars, seeing it has happened before in the last couple of years. I am no psychic, but to me, this just feels like a championship year for the Spurs. They have not had to deal with any major injuries to their guys at the start of the year unlike the last few years, Richard Jefferson has discovered that he can be a lethal three-point threat, and Duncan continues to make his post partner DeJuan Blair better, while still getting his fair share.
If Duncan and the Spurs add some more jewelry to their collection, I think you have to say Duncan is up for “Top Five NBA Players of All-Time” consideration. Right now I would say he is sniffing at that discussion, but there is some heavy competition he is going up against. While players like Kevin Garnett and the like spew constant profanity and talk big in order to hype themselves up, Duncan remains a quietly dangerous force who lets his game speak for itself.
When his career finally comes to a close, I think he will be considered one of the top five players to ever play the game. Although, I am guessing even Tim himself could probably not care less about something like that.