This was a mild story for a couple of days last week, but still I'm pretty ticked that former Nuggets coach George Karl decided to run his mouth about the fate of Tim Duncan on ESPN. Duncan rightly seemed irked by the report because he's the last guy who'd let something like that slip to anyone unless he wanted it known. And if he ever did slip up, it sure as heck wouldn't be to a guy like Karl.
I get that Karl and Pop are friends, but Pop is friends with lots of crappy coaches. The more of them there are in the league, the better it is for him. You know who Pop wasn't particularly chummy with? Phil Jackson, because he was good. When you have a media job like Karl does, there is pressure to prove that you're plugged in to the league -- which means you've got to come up with a juicy nugget now and then. In that sense I can understand why Karl would break the code, but I just have zero faith whatsoever that anyone around the Spurs would spill something that important, even though they have had assistant coaches with leaky mouths in past years.
I don't know who Karl's source is or what his motivation was. Maybe he wanted to tweak the Spurs, who sent him crashing out of the playoffs a couple of times, and give them a needless distraction. I just have trouble believing the sincerity of this report when Duncan, who's always pledged to keep going "until the wheels fall off," is playing this well and isn't even dealing with any serious injuries.
According to Quixem Ramirez of ProjectSpurs.com, Duncan's PER from December through February has been 24.5/23.4/24.7 and while the PER isn't the be-all and end-all, it's startling to see how consistent and efficient he's been in terms of scoring and rebounding even a couple months shy of his 38th birthday. His per-36 numbers are pretty much in line with every other year of his career, except for drop-offs in blocks and free throw percentage, but he's actually been getting to the line a bit more than last year and snatching more offensive boards. Duncan's pretty much been the same guy since 2007-08, he just plays four fewer minutes a night now.
The more pertinent question is why would Duncan want to retire? He has an ideal situation in San Antonio. No modern NBA superstar has ever had to deal with less media scrutiny, especially from the national folk. Duncan talks pregame maybe once a week for five minutes -- always strictly about basketball -- and maybe every other post-game, again only about what just transpired. It's well-established that his personal life is strictly off-limits and any other non-Spurs question gets thoroughly vetted. Sit-down interview pieces and profiles are few and far between.
In just about any other market, his accomplishments and stature would give him considerably more exposure, whether he wanted it or not. And there would've been considerably more "Page Six" -type stories considering some of the, uh, interesting allegations his ex-wife reportedly made, or even the unsavory circumstances that led to their split in the first place. It's amazing to me that story didn't blow up more. Nor did Tony Parker's texting with an ex-teammate's wife a few years back, if you recall. The Spurs are controversy Teflon. I'm sure there are plenty of ballers out there who just want to play, cash checks and go home who look on with envy at what the Spurs have down San Antonio way.
If the Spurs win it all, I can see Timmy riding off into the sunset a la Bill Russell. If they get upset in the first round I can see him so dejected about being so far from the mountaintop that maybe it won't be worth trying again with the big three one more year older. But if it's a typical year and they get to the final four, I think Duncan plays one more year, at least.
He just might have an opportunity to kick Karl's butt a couple more times, if some team gives him another head coaching job.