As career winds down, ASG special for Duncan

As career winds down, ASG special for Duncan
February 17, 2013, 11:00 am
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A day in the life of James Harden

As 36-year-old Tim Duncan answered question after question and started to get visibly tired of answering question after question. He started to get a little irritated.

He wasn’t mean about it, that’s not his way.

But still, he’s been through this plenty before. After all, the All-Star Game in Houston will be the 14th of his career. That’s 14 years of questions during the days leading up to the game.

After answering questions about his teammates, his coach and the Spurs’ season, Duncan finally heard one that made him laugh: “Why are you here?”

“Why am I here?” Duncan echoed. “I have no idea. No idea. Here to enjoy the festivities.”

But there he was. He’s on the All-Start team, maybe for the last time – one of his generation’s best players at perhaps his last All-Star Weekend, answering more questions.

“It’s special every time you get to be with this group of players,” said San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich, who is doubling as the Western Conference’s head coach for the All-Star Game on Sunday. “It’s even more special if you get to be with a couple from your own team to share it with because you remember that forever. In Timmy’s case, obviously he’s not going to play a whole lot more years-wise, so it has a special meaning.”

Duncan has dealt with knee problems this season. He’s played in 44 of the Spurs’ 54 games. His numbers are good, not quite what they used to be, but good. He averages 17.2 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. And Duncan has missed nine of the Spurs’ last 12 games. But in those nine games he’s missed, the Spurs went 8-1.

A lot of that had to do with Duncan’s fellow All-Star teammate Tony Parker.

“He’s been amazing. He’s having an amazing season,” Duncan said of Parker. “Honestly, I think he’s one of the MVPs this season because he’s done so much for us. He’s played so well. I’ve been out for a while Manu’s been out for a while. It didn’t matter who it was, he’s brought the numbers every night. He’s had the effort every night. He’s been unbelievable.”

But even without Parker, the Spurs have come through. Last Monday, without Duncan, without Manu Ginobli and with Parker earning night of rest, the Spurs beat a very good Bulls’ team by 14 points on the road. In fact, the Spurs have used 13 different starting lineups this season.

“I think it’s a great confidence booster for the depth of our team, for a lot of different guys,” Duncan said.

On Friday, not far from where Duncan sat, in his blue jeans and bright orange polo shirt, sat Kevin Garnett, another guy who might very well be in his final All-Star Game. Garnett was one of the primary focuses of All-Star Weekend after some comments he made seemingly hinted at retirement. Instead, Garnett said his comments about this being his last All-Star Game was simply a hat tip to the young talent in the NBA.

Really, Garnett and Duncan are two of the last members of a generation slowly becoming extinct.

“We’re both competitors and we’ve both played against each other for a number of years,” Duncan said. “I’d be honored to say I’m a part of the same group as him. He’s a helluva competitor.”

This will be Duncan’s 14th All-Star Game, Garnett’s 15th and Kobe Bryant’s 15th. The next closest players are LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who are each making their ninth appearances.

Duncan knows he can’t play forever. At some point in the seemingly endless line of questions came a few about Grant Hill, who’s still playing at age 40. When asked if he can see himself playing at 40, Duncan answered quickly: “No.”

There’s a talent turnover in the NBA and eventually, it’ll turn over on Duncan too. There are seven first-time All-Stars on the rosters this year.  

At 36, with knee problems and with his normal coach as his All-Star coach, Duncan knows he won’t get a lot of minutes Sunday. So, what’s he doing here?

The same thing he did 15 years ago: enjoying the experience.

Sort of.
“I remember not playing a whole lot,” Duncan said about his first All-Star Game. “I remember not playing a whole lot and being angry about it.”