If I Were R.C. Buford Part III: The Duncan Edition

I would not change San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan’s role at all. In fact I might increase his role in the offense just a bit. Who’s to say he can’t average 15 and 10 next season?

But this past early playoff exit has caused Spurs fans to start thinking about the future, especially a future without Duncan. My initial thought in writing this was to wonder if Duncan could ever come off the Spurs bench and that issue will still be addressed. However, Chris Bernucca with Sheridan Hoops wrote a radical idea that must be discussed. It was related to the rumored amnesty clause that may be attached to the new CBA. We’ve been hearing about it for a little bit now and the universal reaction was the Spurs would part ways with Richard Jefferson. 

But Bernucca wrote this bombshell of an idea today:

“More significantly: Can a team be prevented from re-signing a player it releases? If not, then the San Antonio Spurs could amnesty Tim Duncan (wink, wink), re-sign him to the veteran’s minimum and use the net $20 million cap space to sign a free agent that could help them make one more championship run – someone like Tyson Chandler.”

This Chris Bernucca guy is devious and this is an awesome idea. It’s the Brent Barry trade, then resigning all over again, but on steroids. Of course it won’t happen (Bernucca cleverly admits as much later), but it’s a crazy, out of the box scenario that you gotta love. If Duncan didn’t opt out of his contract this summer, there’s very little chance he’ll agree to being the amnesty casualty for the Spurs.

Back to the lecture at hand. The topic? Could the Spurs ever bring Duncan off the bench?

The short, knee jerk reaction is probably “Hell no.” And no, it won’t happen this coming season. But what happens when the Spurs sign their next big man? What if they get a guy with a score first mentality? What if they get a guy who doesn’t have an offensive game outside ten feet? Can Duncan turn himself into David Robinson without the bad back? Can he go KG and just work on a mid range game?

I think Duncan can, of course I think that. Here’s why. Are you worried about Duncan not being an elite defender? Well guess what, he would be against the B-teamers of the world, even with an achy knee. You might say there’s no way Duncan would ever allow that, but given the special relationship he has with Coach Pop, I actually think if Pop broached the subject, Duncan would at least give the bench a whirl.

There’s two precedents to this. For the first example we have to hop in to the way back machine. During the 1985-86 season, Bill Walton won sixth man of the year for the Boston Celtics. The real life Teen Wolf came off the bench and was key in helping the Celtics win the NBA title that year.

The second example comes from a guy that was in his prime and also selflessly came off the bench. That would be Manu Ginobili. Manu came off the bench during two of the Spurs’ three title seasons (he started all 74 games he played in 2004-2005). Ginobili proved that being a sixth man doesn’t mean a reduced role for a player. He still has averaged close to 30 minutes per game throughout his career.

This coming season is going to be very telling for the Spurs and Duncan in particular. Maybe the he has a mini rejuvenation and averages another double-double, maybe the Spurs find a way to bring in another big and reduce his role even further. Either way one has to think that if he wants to, Duncan will find a way to adapt his game to whatever situation is best for the Spurs organization.

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