I’ll just come out and say it right now. I’m an unabashed Spurs homer that attempts to maintain an adequate level of objectivity when writing or discussing my team. Of course, I fail. Usually.
Today will be different. I assure you. My initial idea for this post spawned after the Spurs defeated the New Jersey Nets, 103-89, on Feb. 11 (with Manu!). Other than the vintage Dallas Chaparrals jerseys, the success of the Deron Williams-Kris Humphries pick-and-roll and another underrated Gary Neal performance (18 points on 8-10 shooting), nothing came to my immediate attention.
Until I gave a cursory look at Tim Duncan’s box score, I felt compelled to close shop and hopefully come to an insightful conclusion in the morning. Here’s Timmy’s line in all it’s glory: 13 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two blocks, one steal, 6-11 shooting (eight of which were outside 16 feet) in 24 minutes of action.
Seems like a standard double-double from a surefire Hall of Famer reduced to a shadow of his former self. No longer is he consistently dominating the low block with his assortment of unstoppable post moves and smooth footwork, subjecting his foes to unimaginable bouts of frustration in the process.
He’s no longer considered one of the premier players in the NBA and rightfully so. He shouldn’t be expected to play more than 30 minutes a night in his current state much less carry the weight of an entire team and a cities collective pysche on his broad shoulders.
But Duncan isn’t a detriment to this current Spurs team. Actually, in his 14th season, he’s proven to be an invaluable component to a Spurs team in the midst of a 10 game winning streak.
Without his savvy defensive game and his consistently elite basketball acumen, the Spurs would not be average in defensive efficiency this year (15th).
Look no further than around 3:38 in the 1st quarter during yesterday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers. Matt Bonner, who has been positively awful defensively, was matched up with the athletic specimen that is Blake Griffin. Obviously someone has the advantage in the scenario. Without any semblance of effort, Griffin found an angle to the basket and seemed prime to add another highlight reel dunk to his impressive resume.
Duncan, who left his man to help, rotated quickly and precisely and, most importantly, maintained his ground. Instead of a ferocious dunk, Timmy recorded a low-key block without the seemingly requisite finger-wagging or chest bumping. That was his job on that play. Nothing more, nothing less.
Now going back to my original idea before I continue to ramble on incoherently. Timmy does have a legitimate All-Star bid this year. While he does only average 27.4 minutes a night and he is becoming increasingly reliant on the 16-23 foot jumper (six attempts per 40 minutes, third behind Andrea Bargnani and Byron Mullens at center), his per-minute numbers fare remarkably well given the circumstances.
Efficiency does tend to improve when given less minutes so that has to be accounted for but, even so, it’s pretty apparent that Timmy is still playing at an above-average level at the age of 35. He’s had to completely retool his basketball game, swallow his pride and build his game around the perimeter rather than the low block. Without a conscious effort to do so, he wouldn’t be enjoying the success he has today.
For your sake, I’ll simply leave you with this striking statistical comparison (adjusted for 40 minutes)
Player A- 18.8 PTS, 14.5 TRB, 1.5 AST, 2.3 BLK, 0.5 STL, .547 FG%, 21.7 PER
Player B- 20.2 PTS, 12.2 TRB, 2.4 AST, 2.0 BLK, 1.1 STL, .472 FG%, 21.4 PER
Player A is Andrew Bynum, widely considered as the second best center in basketball. Player B is Duncan.
Now tell me, does Timmy have a legitimate complaint?