San Antonio Spurs veteran star Tim Duncan's beautifully ageless play is a joy forever

To paraphrase Junior from that timeless source of all basketball wisdom, White Men Can't Jump, a thing like Tim Duncan is a joy forever.

Junior's man John Keats said that. Not sure about this Keats fellow's basketball pedigree. There's nothing about him at basketball-reference.com.
Duncan's stats are easier to find (over 20 points and 11 rebounds per game over 1254 regular season matches plus another 229 in post-season play) and as he enters his sixth NBA Finals series, there is speculation he may end his glittering career when this rematch with Miami ends, win or lose.

Duncan is 38 and about to complete his 17th season in the NBA. He must rank alongside the likes of Kareem, Wilt, Russell and Hakeem as the greatest big men in NBA history.

Pretty much every year since he led the Spurs to the 2009 title, it has been asked - is this his last season?

And in each of those years, there have been questions about whether San Antonio's golden era was coming to an end.

The answer to both questions remains the same - not any time soon.

Duncan could play well into his 40s. He's been playing old-man ball for a lot of his career.

The Big Fundamental has never relied on explosive speed or a gravity-defying vertical leap. His game has been based around solid offence close to the basket, high-percentage plays and hard-nosed but not necessarily physically taxing defence.

The question should be - why can't he play another five years?

With coach Gregg Popovich's canny use of minutes restrictions and scheduled rests through the regular season, Duncan has yet again been fresh in the playoffs, getting his supposedly old legs up and down the court better than many of his younger rivals.

San Antonio's hopes of another shot at Miami looked grim when the more athletic and younger power forward Serge Ibaka returned early from injury to erase the Thunder's 2-0 series deficit with back-to-back big wins.

Duncan didn't panic. He made the necessary adjustments, mixing between quick-release shots and pump fakes to negotiate his way past Ibaka's swatting hands.

Critics have often described Duncan as a robot due to his machine-like play on the court and lack of animation off it.

When asked after the series-clinching game six win over Oklahoma City about the return clash with Miami, he said "we'll do it this time" before adding "we're happy it's the Heat again".

This was interpreted as arrogance and motivation for the Heat. Really? You'd be worried if a player didn't say they were going to get the job done heading into a finals series.

You can't have it both ways - you can't complain Duncan is boring then cut him down whenever he says anything even remotely outlandish.
Miami are slight favourites to three-Heat but ominously for them, the Spurs have home-court advantage as they did in each of their championship years of 1999, 2003, '07 and '09. The Spurs are 9-1 this post-season at home while the Heat are 8-0. Miami won't mind too much. They didn't particularly care all season about Indiana taking the top seed and home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference.

Everyone is hoping the finals are a repeat of last year's memorable seven-match series and all signs point to this one going the distance. The rosters are virtually the same, Manu Ginobili and Dwyane Wade each look stronger and healthier, Miami still have the better stars and San Antonio have superior teamwork, Popovich is still angry and Tony Parker is banged up. Last year he nursed a dodgy hamstring through the finals, this time around it's an ankle injury.

And if Duncan and the Spurs don't get the job done, there's always next year. And the year after. And on they'll go.

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