Monday, May 21, 2007
Tim Duncan: Remember The Name
Prediction: Tim Duncan will take this picture again at some point next month.
One game and one victory into the fifth conference final appearance of his 10-year career (in a Western Conference that's been consistently loaded over that span), it's time we reflect on the accomplishments of the great Tim Duncan. Bill Simmons touched on this recently but it's worth rehashing (since nobody seems to be listening.) In a decade in the NBA, Tim Duncan has won three championships with three finals MVP's; he has been MVP of the regular season twice (and should probably win it every year); he has been selected to nine All-Star Games (there was no game in 1999) and won the game's MVP in 2000. He is a nine-time All-NBA first team choice and a seven-time All-Defensive first teamer. He holds career regular season averages of 21.8 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 2.5 blocks on 51% shooting, all of which would be higher if he had even the slightest bit of selfishness in him. He has never missed more than thirteen games during the regular season, playing 80-games last year with plantar fasciitis (whatever that is). His only weakness is his relatively weak foul-shooting, only 68% for his career (and that's a mental thing more than a skill thing; we know this because he shot 80% his first MVP year and consistently hits fifteen-foot jumpers). He ups these averages to 24.1, 12.7, 3.6, and 2.7 during the postseason (that's heading into this year). This spring he's averaging 24.1, 12.1, 3.3, and 3.4, his Spurs now seven wins away from officially becoming a dynasty (if they aren't already).
Aside from numbers, Duncan is great at all of the little things that don't show up in the stat sheet. This is what most seperates him from the equally talented Kevin Garnett (well, other than the obvious advantages Tim has had in teammates and management) : the intangibles. For example, Tim never disappears from games for long stretches at a time; he always makes an impact in some area. He's a great leader and has a positive impact on his teammates that goes beyond drawing the double-teams that get them open shots; I can't even explain what it is, I just know it's part of the reason the Spurs have never won fewer than 53-games in a full season during his career. And he always asserts himself in crunch-time, the most reliable low post scorer in the league.
Only 31, Duncan's place as one of the greatest players in the game's history is secure. If he were to fall down a flight of stairs two seconds from now and break both of his legs Joe Theismann-style, and never play another game again, he'd still have to be in the top-10 of anybody's list. He's obviously the best four-man of all-time, but you could also make an argument that he's the greatest forward ever, small or power (even over Bird, because of his superior defensive abilities and the fact that Bird's teams were much more talented; on the other hand, Larry played in the greatest era ever and it was harder for him to win his rings; then again, Timmy had to go through some excellent Lakers teams that would've competed for the title in any era just to get to the Finals; on the flip side ... you know what, before I get carried away with that topic, I'll just stop and finish the main idea of this one. Tim deserves to have today's space all to himself. We'll save the Duncan vs. Bird debate for another day.) And personally, I think he's the best all-around big man that ever played the game.
I also think he's gonna win a fourth chip next month. Detroit will be tough as always in the Finals, but I think San Antonio will pull it out in seven, partly because they'll have the home-court advantage, mostly because they'll have Tim Duncan.