|Tim Duncan smashed on Serge Ibaka. (Getty Images)|
Every year we keep waiting for the old guys to fall off and every year we keep marveling at the production they throw up there.
For years, Kevin Garnett “hasn't gotten any younger,” which is one of the dumber things you can say about someone, Steve Nash has been too old to get his shot off, and Tim Duncan has been too slow to continue to be effective. And yet, they keep producing at All-Star or near All-Star levels. We're expecting these guys to fade away a lot quicker than is happening.
There's an obvious trend: Today's nutrition, dietary advancements and training regimens contribute to a player's health, so much that it's a lot harder for them to hit the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wall. Maybe it started with Kevin Willis' bicep curls or John Stockton's lack of body fat. But at a certain point, everything turned and old guys slowed down the athlete- aging process.
A lot of people came into the season expecting Duncan to begin to look like an old man. There are always going to be jokes about it, like when the box score listed the future Hall of Famer as “DNP-Old.” Because Duncan is no longer Duncan, you're obligated to acknowledge the Spurs are still a dangerous team, but they won't win the title unless Duncan can turn back the clock.
And that's probably a valid way of surmising the Spurs' title hopes this season.
However, a very cool thing regarding the Spurs has happened in the first two games of the season: Duncan is beating the younger, athletic guys' butts.
When Duncan faced off against Anthony Davis' team in the first game of the season, Duncan anchored the Spurs with 25 points on 10-for-15 shooting, 13 rebounds, three assists and three blocks. The next night, the Spurs went up against the Oklahoma City Thunder and he managed 20 points (this time on just 8-for-19 shooting), eight rebounds and three blocks.
The old man with the extinguishing flame has been opposed by two teams who embody youth and athleticism in his first two games of the season and he's set them on fire. This probably won't happen every night. Duncan will have to take a step back and assume the role of defensive anchor while the three-point barrage rains down on the Spurs' opponents.
Against Davis and Robin Lopez, Duncan used his strength and length to get position inside and punish the Hornets at the rim. He did the same thing against Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka, even flushing home a dunk in the face of the league's leading shot-blocker from last season.
Perhaps Duncan looked like an older player last season because of the lockout-shortened schedule. There wasn't a lot of room for practice, rest, and proper healing. Gregg Popovich had to be careful about how he used his trio of Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. This even prompted a Parker sound bite pleading with Pop to let him play because he's only 29.
With a proper training schedule to get Duncan's body ready for a more normal season, it's possible we'll see much more offense from him than we did only a few months ago. He'll be able to rest during more stretches of the season and won't have to be relegated to just expending his energy on defense.
It doesn't mean the Spurs should be favored to win the West or earn the fifth title of the Duncan-Popovich era; it just means the rumors of his demise might have been prematurely assumed.
We're only two games into an 82-game season, but Duncan is averaging 22 points, 9.5 rebounds, three blocks, and shooting 52.9 percent from the field. Considering his career averages are 20.3, 11.3, 2.2 and 50.7 percent, that's not too shabby of a start.
Tim Duncan is still here. Act accordingly.