San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan seems to be doing it all lately; putting up monster numbers on a nightly basis, rising in the all time NBA ranks and helping the Spurs keep a comfortable lead as the first seed in the Western conference with all-star guard Tony Parker out.
It’s safe to say Duncan’s having a good season.
With his numbers considerably higher pretty much across the board than they have been in years, some casual NBA fans may be surprised to see what Duncan is doing at the ripe NBA age of 36, with 37 just over a month away.
But don’t count on Duncan’s NBA peers to be too surprised at his efforts this season. Despite his age, counting Duncan out early, like many do the Spurs, is usually a mistake.
Take Duncan’s game against the Golden State Warriors last night as “Exhibit A” in the above statement. In 31 minutes, Duncan lead the Spurs with 25 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and four blocks.
While the Golden State Warriors may have found Duncan tough to contend with, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone on their roster that would call his performance a surprise, including guard Stephen Curry.
"That surprise is over in November. He shows that he still has it and you have to prepare for him every night,” Curry said. “At this point there is no surprise at all. He is professional and one of the best, if not the best.”
Last season around this time, Duncan strung together a few strong performances that may have surprised us in press row, but the other big men he played against practically expected it from him.
"That's Tim Duncan. First of all he's a great player. Just like other veterans, with each year he's actually better and better,” Suns center Marcin Gortat said then. “He's dangerous. His jumpshot from outside is way better than it used to be and it's always going to be a challenge to guard him.”
Duncan was averaging 12.9 points per game last season before a game with the Houston Rockets when he exploded for 25 points and 16 rebounds. The man that had to defend him that night, Luis Scola, now a member of the Phoenix Suns, echoed Curry’s and Gortat’s sentiments.
"I'm not surprised at all in Tim Duncan tonight," Scola said then. "He's an all-star, he's a great player. He will never surprise me."
The biggest difference between then and now is one word…consistency. As Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has said over and over again, Duncan has been strong all season long.
After suffering an injury and struggling a big after recovering, Duncan seems to now be back on track, and right in time for the most important part of the season.
Duncan is averaging 27.7 points, 14.7 rebounds, four assists and 3.3 blocks per game in his last three games, and he has had nine blocked shots in the last two games. Duncan has had a team-high 27 double-doubles and has scored in double figures in 52 games this season.
“He’s a Hall of Fame player. An all-time great. He certainly had a big night tonight.” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said.
Going into tonight’s game against a Utah Jazz team with a talented trio of big men, Popovich will once again call on his oldest player to lead his team.
That 1976 Vintage does seem to be favoring well for Popovich lately after all.