Have the San Antonio Spurs cheated death?
Let’s define our terms: what do we mean by “the Post-Duncan Era”?
We could mean the era that follows Tim Duncan’s retirement, but that’s not necessary. The Post-Duncan Era could also refer to a period that comes at the end of Duncan’s career, a period in which his role on the team strongly undergirds San Antonio’sÂ success, but is not critical to it.
If we allow this as a working definition, we have to ask, are we there? Has the Post-Duncan Era already arrived? And, if so, what should we call it?
The Spurs crushed the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers last night. Tim Duncan contributed 2 points and 4 rebounds in 29 minutes. Â His defense was solid, and doesn’t show up in the boxscore, but he was, in many ways, a bit player, something that is not an infrequentÂ occurrence this season. Tim Duncan has been an afterthought in a handful of Spurs victories.
He’s also had his moments: triple doubles, double-doubles, big shots, expert leadership. A completeÂ disappearanceÂ of self into the concept of team. If the Spurs are a carousel, Tim Duncan is the big pony that revolves in and out of view. He’s no longer the wheel that spins the machine.
But as much as Pat Riley seems like a lock for NBA Executive of Year, how could voters look past R.C. Buford? R.C. Buford hasn’t simply put together a championship roster, he’s cheated death. The San Antonio Spurs are Lazarus back from the dead.
Dance, dead man, dance.
There was a time when I characterized Tim Duncan as the Spurs’ championship window. Not anymore. It’s as if Buford and Gregg Popovich voluntarily shut the previous window, ripped it out of the wall, and refashioned it as part of a new frame. Consider it a preemptive strike in creative championship building.
The Spurs have entered a new window, one that is considerably shorter than their last window. But it’s still open wide enough for a gale to rattle through the house, shake the China Cabinet, and slam the corridor doors shut with a kind of ghostly defiance. Â It’s guard-led and spry. It likes to shoot threes.
Tim Duncan has his little role to fill. And the Spurs are still quintessentially themselves. But the goings on are going differently than we expected. The Spurs have moved on.