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Tim Duncan might not play until after the All-Star break

Gregg Popovich is taking the cautious route with the franchise player. Who would've guessed?

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express News reported that Gregg Popovich hasn't ruled out the possibility of keeping Tim Duncan sidelined through the All-Star Game.

It makes sense to give the veteran big man five more games off with the All-Star week just around the corner to be sure that Duncan comes back ready to roll for the stretch run. If Tim returns on February 18 in Los Angeles against the Clippers, the first game after the All-Star break, he will have had 26 full days off of the court.

The Spurs schedule through the break is not easy but it is pretty reasonable to expect SA to go 3-2 or 4-1: they host the Pelicans and Lakers (a SEGABABA for the Spurs) and they will visit the Heat, Magic and Mavericks. Holding a five-game advantage in the loss column over the Thunder for the West's two-seed is a nice bonus for the Spurs.

PATFO is always extra cautious with their players, especially ones of a certain vintage, placing an emphasis on player health when the games really count over playoff seeding, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that Tim may be out for a couple more weeks.

Charles Barkley might think that Timmy is done, but anyone that watches Big Fun regularly play basketball knows what he brings to the court. Timmy is leading the league in defensive rating, and is leading ESPN's defensive real plus/minus by a wide margin. So the Spurs are right to play it safe, in the last four games without Timmy (albeit one against an offensive juggernaut and another against a fired up Cavs team) the Spurs have given up 108.4 points per 100 possessions. Their rate over the first 44 games of the season was 93.5 points per 100 possessions.

The Spurs are at their best when they make everything an absolute grind for their opponents. Tim is still an elite rim protector and unquestionably SA's defensive captain. The Spurs need him in April, when the real season starts.