Plans for life after Duncan may be premature

It’s a sad truth, but unless miracle drugs become invented or he unearths the fountain of youth, San Antonio Spurs hall-of-fame power forward Tim Duncan’s NBA days are numbered.

Although some would say Duncan found the fountain of youth several years ago, no one evades time for long.

With the Spurs set to start the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat tomorrow, the question of Tim Duncan’s NBA shelf life has been quite the hot topic of late.

Many are writing about in NBA Finals previews, has been over all the major sports networks and I was even asked about it on a radio interview this week.

“If the Spurs win the title, will Tim Duncan retire and go out on top a la David Robinson?”

But well before Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals, there are already rumblings of life after Duncan.

We’ve already covered some reports that San Antonio is a possible destination for Pau Gasol in the offseason. But I can’t tell you how many times reports mention the Spurs as a possible destination or favorite to land a player without anything ever becoming of it. We don’t all need to relive the amnesty waiver period again.

But the latest comes in a chat with Bill Ingram of Basketball Insiders involving a younger player that could be on the Spurs’ radar. In the chat, a participant asked Ingram if Duncan does retire, could the Spurs sign Detroit’s Greg Monroe and continue their success.

I can see that happening, actually. The Spurs have been rumored to like Monroe, and while he is no Duncan, he is a talented big man that Pop could mold into a better player than he would ever be in Detroit. Of course, that’s assuming Pop doesn’t retire right along with Duncan, and that Duncan wouldn’t elect to try to defend the title.

Ingram is right, Monroe is no Duncan. Also, while Monroe is a young, serviceable big man with a ton of room to grow, Detroit can also give him a qualifying offer and make him a restricted free agent this offseason. So in order for the Spurs to have a chance at Monroe, either Detroit would have to pass on the qualifying offer, making him unrestricted. If he becomes restricted and Monroe decides the Spurs are for him and vice versa, the Pistons still have the right of first refusal.

But aside from the stars aligning just right, there’s also a grand assumption that Duncan is going to retire IF the Spurs win their fifth championship.

Asked after last year’s Finals loss about the chance of retiring, Duncan said he planned to honor his contract. Duncan has a player option at the end of this season that could see him making $10 million for the 2014-15 season.

Duncan also said during 2010 that he planned on playing “until the wheels fall off.”

If you ask just about anyone, averages of around 15 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks per game during the 2013-14 season don’t constitute the wheels falling off.

Nor does his 19 point, 15 rebound effort in Game 6 against the Oklahoma City Thunder to close out the Western Conference Finals.

Despite this though, the one factor that no one should overlook is Duncan’s competitiveness. If the Spurs do indeed win the title with a 38-year-old Duncan, what’s to keep him from believing he can’t repeat for the first time at 39.

If the Spurs lose, does the fire and hunger for a fifth championship just burn out?


If Duncan has it his way, I can see him spurring on a new set of life after Duncan rumors next year. This time maybe it’s LaMarcus Aldridge looking to return to Texas or pairing Kenneth Faried in the frontcourt with Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter.

As Oliver Wendell Holmes said best, “men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.”

Only Duncan will know when to quit playing regardless of what print, radio and television are saying, or what people are whispering in George Karl’s ear.

For now, Duncan plays on.

About Michael A. De Leon

Michael founded Project Spurs in 2004. He started The Spurscast, the first Spurs podcast on the Internet, in 2005. Michael has been interviewed by the BBC, SportTalk, the Sports Reporters Radio Show, MemphisSportLive, OKC Sports Wrap and ESPN radio among others. He is a credentialed member of the media for the San Antonio Spurs and Austin Toros. He is also the founder of Project Spurs' sister sites, Toros Nation and Stars Hoops.