Spurs-Thunder: 'Old Man Riverwalk' keeps rolling along

COMMENTARY — Tim Duncan remains a preeminent player on the NBA’s best team in the regular season and what’s looking like the best team in the playoffs, too. But the Spurs’ star knows the sun has started to set.
by Berry Tramel Published: May 20, 2014

photo -  
                 Tim Duncan celebrates a basket during the Spurs’ Game 1 win in the Western Conference Finals on Monday. 
                   Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
Tim Duncan celebrates a basket during the Spurs’ Game 1 win in the Western Conference Finals on Monday. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

Duncan said yeah, he was surprised at 21 first-half points, but “I was just kind of taking what was given to me. Going into the half in the 20s, that's crazy.”

What’s crazy is a guy scoring 21 first-half points more than 16 years after scoring 32 points in his NBA playoff debut, a victory over Phoenix, in a game that included Avery Johnson, Vinny Del Negro and Monty Williams, who long ago started their NBA head-coaching careers. A game that included Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson. And current Thunder assistant coach Mark Bryant, who is 49. And Hot Rod Williams, who is 51.

How is Duncan still being this productive at age 38? Still averaging 15.1 points and 9.7 rebounds a game, on a 62-win team?

“You’re asking me questions now that are hard to answer,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “I just have to give him credit. It’s kind of like Vince Carter (37) in Dallas. What the hell is Vince doing? I didn’t think Vince would be doing that at his age.

“They take care of themselves in the sense of what they put in their bodies. I know Timmy works out all summer doing a variety of things, swimming, boxing, not necessarily getting on the court and pounding or anything like that, but he stays in good shape as far as the physicality of it and the nutrition part.

“And he's a mentally tough individual who really feels a responsibility to help carry the program. He really loves being at practice, in the locker room, with the guys, and I think he wants to extend that as long as he can, so it's like a mental toughness that he's driven to do that.”

To survive, the Thunder can’t let Duncan have such games. Can’t let the San Antonio offense turn back the clock and make Duncan produce games that would fit in nicely with his monster yesteryear. But with no Serge Ibaka, and with the Spur offense running efficiently, and with Duncan always in the right place, Groundhog Day is always on the table. Living in the present, playing like the past.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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