Spurs at crossroad

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:18 AM ET

When all is said and done, when Tim Duncan hangs up his hightops and gets enshrined in basketball’s Hall of Fame, the Big Fundamental will be remembered as the game’s best power forward.

But for now, a big question mark hovers over Duncan, team concerns that lead to the foundation on how the San Antonio Spurs have been built under Gregg Popovich’s watch.

The Lakers of Shaq and Kobe three-peated earlier this decade because of transcendent talent and an inability from a Portland team to come through in the clutch and a Sacramento team that simply couldn’t get over the hump.

As good as that Lakers team was, nothing compares to the Duncan-led Spurs, winners of four championships whose run began when San Antonio won the draft lottery in 1997, the year Duncan was taken first overall.

Had David Robinson not been injured, the Spurs would not have been in a position to take Duncan out of Wake Forest at a time when the lottery odds favoured the Boston Celtics.

With the Admiral at centre and Duncan at power forward, the dynasty that would become the Spurs took shape.

You look at the 1997 draft and you see that Chauncey Billups isn’t as good as he was when he was making big shots in leading Detroit to a title; Tracy McGrady is washed up; Stephen Jackson posts decent numbers on an average Charlotte team; Anthony Parker is a depth piece; Tony Battie and Tim Thomas enter free agency as fringe players.

The seven active players from the ’97 draft are on the downside of their careers, but no career even comes close to Duncan.

Duncan and Popovich are joined at the hip, making a split virtually impossible, which is why Tony Parker’s name gets bandied about in possible off-season scenarios involving potential trades. Duncan, to boot, has two years left and $40 million US.

Based on this spring’s playoffs, he’s not worth it.

No player has played more minutes than Duncan during his era and he’s beginning to show the wear and tear.

The Suns were able to sweep the Spurs because Phoenix took advantage of Duncan, who was exposed and abused. The Suns are a pick-and-roll team featuring bigs that spread the floor.

Duncan could not show and recover and he could not make free throws.

He’s nowhere near as big and out of shape as Shaq, but Duncan is threatening to enter that stage of his career where his presence is marginal.

Against Phoenix, Duncan averaged 16.0 points in the two games played in San Antonio. Against Dallas, Duncan tied his career low by scoring four points in a three-point Spurs win. In 10 playoff games, Duncan recorded four single-digit rebounding nights.

Averaging 19.0 points and 9.9 rebounds in a playoff run sounds good for most players, but not for Duncan.

At no time in his career post-season did Duncan average fewer points than he did this spring. His 48% shooting from the line was a career low, while Duncan’s rebounding average ranked as the third lowest.

For obvious reasons, the soul-searching in San Antonio has begun.

Whether this is the beginning of the end for the Spurs is the great unknown.

It’s certainly the beginning of a new Duncan, one that is getting old.


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