Not a storied ending, but room for Duncan’s story nonetheless

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Tonight Tim Duncan will start his 12th consecutive All-Star game, 13th overall, and first official start at center. How his presence should be questionable in an event that originally named an injured Yao Ming to this spot is beyond me.

Among his All-Star peers Duncan has the least impressive statistics but perhaps the most impressive resume. And like San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, I believe his presence in the starting lineup is completely justified.

“I think it’s totally appropriate, and obvious he should be the starter,” Popovich said (via the Express-News). “I don’t have any problem with it.”

Popovich’s stance might be unpopular everywhere outside of San Antonio—most would argue the Lakers Pau Gasol to be the appropriate choice—but like so many of his past decisions, it’s the right one.

Thanks to outlets like the TrueHoop Network, there has never been a time in which such a great influx of writing talent graced the basketball world. It’s almost equivalent to the flood of foreign players expanding the NBA talent pool. But as we advance—taking how we view basketball to new heights through advanced analytics and positional revolutions, among other theories—sometimes we lose sight of the point.

With so many talented writers on hand to analyze this game sometimes we forget to simply tell a story. In a genre that attempts to look at a game through rational eyes, sometimes we forget that there is room for stories in basketball. 

Context and circumstance should never stray too far from our arguments. Is Derrick Rose the best player in the NBA? No. He might not even be the best point guard. But he should have been the leading MVP candidate long before he dropped a career night on the Spurs in front of a national audience just for what he has done in Chicago, lifting them to elite status despite injuries to prominent players and starting next to Keith Bogans.

In either of Steve Nash’s MVP seasons, he was far from the best player in the world. But at least one of those is legitimate. Still, those that voted for him are accused of getting caught up in his story like it’s a bad thing.

And Duncan starting in an All-Star game is never a bad thing. Especially when a good story can be supported by sound statistics and, more importantly, wins.

Individually, there are several players not partaking in this weekend’s festivities that have had more accomplished seasons from a statistical standpoint. But again, context and circumstance. This is Tim Duncan we are talking about, and in a showcase event like the All-Star game it’s not a lazy argument to simply point this out.

What the San Antonio Spurs have done this season, and what Duncan has been willing to do to achieve it, should be noted and rewarded.

Because Duncan is still more relevant than what his box scores show. Over at The Point Forward, Zach Lowe spent a good part of media day near Tim Duncan, revealing an interesting quote.

Duncan looked up: “Oh. This is my swan song?” It was a joke laced with pride. Duncan clearly does not think of himself as some sort of role player in decline. Earlier in the session, he said this: “I can double-double any time. I can get 20 and 10 just about any time I want.”

This isn’t Gilbert Arenas talking. An egotistical Duncan that demanded the respect (and touches) he has earned could probably still put up his usual 20 and 10.  But they wouldn’t be winning numbers and this Spurs team would not be going anywhere.

It was Popovich who asked Duncan to step aside for the good of the team, and in doing so a quote Pop gave to the Express-News on Manu Ginobili could just as easily be applied to Duncan tonight:

“He’s done his duty long enough and done what I’ve asked him to do because I thought it was best for the team,” Popovich said. “Maybe I was right, maybe I was wrong. It doesn’t matter. But at this point in his career, I thought he deserved to be a starter for no other reason than to be a starter.

“He’s a great player, one of the best in the world, and that’s why I did it. Just to show him respect.”

This is not a swan song. But it is a celebration. And on a weekend when point guards jump through hoops and giants jump over cars, there is room to honor Duncan’s career and the season the Spurs are having this season.

  • zainn

    good documentary of gary neal by espn. getting the deserved media attention…
    http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=6141325&categoryid=2459788

  • deadeye4021

    Good to hear Timmy still feels he can be Mr. 20-10.
    OKC is the perfect place to begin his ”re-invention”
    It’s time to start getting Tim more touches so he can start gearing up. We’re going to need him holding down the post on offense as well as defense come playoff time.

  • http://espn.com Ed

    Pop is beyond the comprehension of most of the sports world. Things like logic, loyalty, honesty, etc. are not understood and/or appreciated by most of the fans, players, commentators or even the general public. It’s sad when doing the right thing is such a foriegn concept. Hats off to Pop.

  • DorieStreet

    First of all, I’d like to state that in the United States, the four major sports leagues all have 30-32 teams. Every year there will be deserving players who are not picked (by vote or subsequent manager/coach selections) for each league’s honor–the limited roster number ensures that will happen.

    With Duncan’s case in particular, the opportunity presented itself when Pop was voted to coach the west allstars. He has done what previous coaches and managers have done it the past. The Spurs would not have the season’s best record without him being in the starting lineup and his play.

    As far as the article’s title is concerned–
    It will be a ‘storied ending’ if Tim and his teammates strive on and win the NBA championship this June. Go Spurs Go!!!!!

  • Mano E Manu

    Did anyone see the pre-game red carpet interview of Ginobili and Duncan? That interviewer asks if Duncan was in any of the competitions earlier in the weekend.

  • Josh

    DorieStreet – I get the feeling the ‘storied ending’ mention was playing off the offensive ‘swan song’ question. Everything I’ve seen from Duncan, Pop, McDyess, and the rest of the Spurs indicates that Tim strongly believes he’s got a few more rings left to grab.

  • wannabe_fake_tough_guy

    Kind of off topic, but that ESPN OTL spot on Gary Neal was pretty good.
    ESPN: “How long are you going to be happy playing a role here?”
    Gary Neal: “Forever.”
    ESPN: “Even if it’s off the bench?”
    Gary Neal: “Do you think I’m better than Manu Ginobili?”

    Best player quote I’ve heard in a while.

  • bong p.

    Tim Duncan is the “Ugly Duckling” of the NBA who has blossomed into an elegant, exquisite, compelling yet humble swan, whose days, contrary to what doomsayers say, is far from over. We wouldn’t be surprise if he does soar off with a fifth ring this season, surrounded as he is by like-minded and hardworking complementary players who are as hungry as he is for a championship. With Duncan as the hub, this squad is more than the sum of its parts.
    Notwithstanding the constant ranting of having a “brittle middle,” come crunch time, we believe this Spurs have the wherewithal to win it all.

  • The Beat Counselor

    @zainn

    +20

    Great video.

  • betsyduncan

    It’s been said countless times, but it bears repeating: Tim Duncan is the absolute epitome of what a professional athlete should be. He is the consummate ‘team player’ in a TEAM sport. No one can touch him or his accomplishments, period. Watching ‘Ball-hog Bryant’ last night, I never felt more fortunate to have had Tim and Manu to watch and root for all of these years. I never forget to thank the ‘basketball gods’ that we have had a player of Tim’s caliber on ‘our side’ for his entire career. And I am doubly glad that Pop had the opportunity to show his appreciation to/for such a formidable man in just the way that he did! And as for this season being Tim’s ‘swan song’? Let’s just wait until the ‘fat lady’ sings, shall we?

  • http://www.babaiepromotions.com Alix Babaie

    I was pleased with the Spurs representation during ASG and most importantly, nobody got hurt (see Wade, D).

    Big Bad Blair looked solid for the Sophs with 28 and 15 and how about that Gary Neal with 20 big points, scoring from everywhere and proving that he belonged!

    I am glad with the way SA was represented and it was an enteraining weekend.

    How about that damn slam dunk from BEHIND the charity stripe by Ibaka!

  • betsyduncan

    Alix, I think that Ibaka deserved much higher scores than those given to him for that dunk! But the ‘fix’ was in for Griffin…
    For once I agreed with the TNT ‘talking heads': it was the best dunk competition I’ve seen in a while.

  • idahospur

    1st round of the dunk contest was the best.
    Why can’t I find a box score for the Rook/Soph game?

  • The Beat Counselor

    Since nobody else has mentioned it…

    before the iconic break-away dunk that Kobe had (that LeBron tried and failed to swat; the one where Kobe gives Lebron a little love tap on the butt after) was started off by none other than…

    Tim Duncan swatting away LeBron’s alley-oop pass to DWade (in transition no-less) and sending the ball to Kobe in one motion.

  • betsyduncan

    Beat, I only watched closely when I saw that either Manu or Tim were in the game. Otherwise, I only paid it half a mind. But nice ‘catch’ (observing that Tim was Kobe’s ‘facilitator’)!

  • http://www.babaiepromotions.com Alix Babaie

    betsyduncan, more than that the dunk was the farthest that anyone in NBA history has succeeded in completing…MJ on the line, Barry just inside the line and Dr. J a step inside the line.

    Nobody expects THAT kind of athleticism and leaping ability from a big.

  • ThatBigGuy

    Ibaka was just rehashing old dunks with his free throw line slam. That’s not going to win. Someday, someone will do a FT line dunk and finish with 2 hands, and that will win the competition.

    And I’m pretty sure Baron Davis’ beard blew the oop on Blake’s Kia dunk. I’m pretty sure he was supposed to throw it farther away from the hoop and Blake was going to windmill it. That would have gone down as a top-10 dunk.

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  • Flavor

    Just wanted to share this link… very short read, but I love it:

    http://hangtime.blogs.nba.com/2011/02/18/with-adults-spurs-dont-need-rules/

  • rob

    Duncan’s story will be told in the anuals of basketball. Talent extrodinaire, when in his prime, catipulted his team to 4 championships. Now in his journey of greatness will resinate the heart of a true champion bonding together a team of courageous souls all great in given individual talent yet not selfish in personal accomplishment rather exemplified in team spirit and unity to win another trophy.

  • betsyduncan

    True that, Alix. That’s why I think he deserved a “50” on the dunk.

  • jwalt

    Pop was the true Spur star of the weekend. He made sure to stroke the ego of anybody who is a threat to them in the West, namely Kobe, Pau, and Kevin Durant. No Spur played in crunch time, all spur opponents. (I know, Dirk didn’t play much, but I think it’s because he still isn’t 100 percent with his knee and it probably was a given he wouldn’t play a lot).

    But I guarantee you if there was 10 million on the line for Pop on winning the game and no ego raminfications, both Manu and Tim would have been in the last five minutes. But there wasn’t so Pop assuaged the egos.

    Nice job Pop!

  • Kevin

    Anyone see James White dunk? I believe he was throwing down some two-handed free-throw line dunks a couple years ago…

  • MK

    I think it speaks a lot for the Spurs front office that the Spurs, for the past decade or more, have always had lousy all-stars. The type of player that excels as a Spur makes a very boring all-star. That type of non-fundamental, me-first basketball does not come naturally to Spurs players. I would have expected Manu to make a great All-star, since he plays unorthodox every game. He just seems uncomfortable putting his individual play above the team.