Tim Duncan: The Spurs 2013-2014 MVP
The San Antonio Spurs host the Miami Heat Thursday night in their second and final regular season matchup. Assuming Dwyane Wade plays, this game will feature both teams at full strength. That wasn’t the case when the two teams met in late January when the Heat pounded the Spurs.
I didn’t take much away from that game since Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter didn’t play. One reminder I did get is that even at age 37, Tim Duncan is still the Spurs most indispensable player. That night, with the rest of the Spurs either struggling or largely unimpactful, Duncan finished with 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting in just 24 minutes.
It turns out that Duncan’s night was just a precursor to a stellar but overlooked February that saw the former two-time MVP as the one constant through a variety of different lineups. He averaged 18.9 points on 52 percent shooting, 10.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 10 games.
Sometimes, we struggle to find praise for a Spurs team that focuses so heavily on the concept of team. And when we do, it’s on Tony Parker for elevating his game over the last three seasons or so, or we do it because Kawhi Leonard is likely a franchise corner stone moving forward. As a result, we overlook Duncan’s brilliance. He’s like that reliable friend or parent. You don’t mean to under-appreciate them in the moment. It just happens.
With Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili’s various injuries throughout the season, the burden has fallen on Duncan to carry the Spurs more often and he’s answered the call almost every time. This shouldn’t happen with a player of his age and, more importantly, his mileage as a player, but this is what we’ve received from him this year. Duncan is only one of six players in the league to average 15-plus points and 10-plus rebounds a game this season. His PER is still top 25 in the league and tops on the Spurs. Simply put, it’s another brilliant season and we may not have quite noticed it.
I bring this up now as the Spurs prepare the Heat because I remember Duncan’s brilliance in last year’s Finals. Games 6 and 7 where Tony Parker was hurt, exhausted, well-defended or all of the above, and Manu Ginobili was asked to do more than he should be at this stage of his career. Duncan turned in two amazing performances and was on his way to a fourth Finals MVP trophy if the Spurs had closed out either of those games.
It doesn’t bother me that it didn’t happen like it does to other fans. I remember the first four titles vividly and was happy to see the Spurs give their all on the biggest stage against the best competition last summer. This isn’t about last year’s Finals, but about Duncan still showing up for the Spurs when they need him most. More than anything, I thought it was just time to remind everyone how good Tim Duncan still is. It’s not that we don’t know he is, but sometimes it just helps to say it out loud.
Tonight’s game from the AT&T Center is set for 7 p.m. Central time and can be seen on TNT.
All stats courtesy of ESPN.com