NBA Sunday: Is Tim Duncan Done?
Tim Duncan (And the Spurs) All Done?
The lockout is awful for everybody. Even after a deal is made, the players are going to feel like they gave up too much, and the owners still are going to fear for the profitability of their organizations, but the ominous nature of this thing goes well beyond the financial implications. This could seriously affect actual basketball, too, especially for a team like the San Antonio Spurs.
It starts with Tim Duncan, who very well could consider retiring if an entire season is lost. Despite the fact that the Spurs came into the 2011 playoffs with the best record in the Western Conference, they were flat-out embarrassed by the upstart Memphis Grizzlies in the first round, perhaps putting an exclamation point on the fact that Duncan is, by NBA standards, officially “over the hill.”
Should the NBA simply not exist for what would have been the 2011-2012 season, Duncan would enter 2012-2013 as a 36-year-old free agent. Spurs guard Tony Parker recently told Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News, “I see myself playing at least two or three more seasons with Timmy,” which is nice, but could be wrong in a couple ways.
Duncan could retire, or Parker could get traded. Or both.
While it’s being said that the players will never, under any circumstances, accept a hard cap, nothing could be worse for the Spurs as a team, especially if they are unable to use an amnesty provision to cut ties with Richard Jefferson. Even with Duncan off the books, the Spurs would have about $43 million invested in five players (Jefferson, Parker, Man Ginobili, Tiago Splitter, and Matt Bonner), and another $2.5 million if (more likely, when) team options get picked up on DeJuan Blair and James Anderson, and the mid-first-round contract of rookie Kawhi Leonard, whatever the new rookie scale ends up being.
If there is a 2011-2012 season, the team is in even more trouble financially, with over $73 million on the books. If there is a harsher luxury tax, they’re the one of about three or four teams that could get hit hardest in the league, and exploring a deal for Parker might be their best bet to find a combination of pieces that are both competitively viable and perhaps more financially agreeable.
But let’s just say that nothing changes other than the Spurs are allowed to cut ties with Jefferson. We play some or all of a 2011-2012 season and give this San Antonio core one more run at it (because, again, they did have the best record in the Western Conference last year). The fact still remains that this is a team led by Duncan (35), Ginobili (34), and Parker (30 in May). How much confidence is there that this aging group can win another title together?
As long as Duncan is on the roster, you’ve got to treat the organization like one that can seriously compete for a championship, even if they really aren’t a team that can still seriously compete for a championship (as Parker himself said back in May). Will Duncan know that, and leave the game gracefully as perhaps the best power forward ever to suit up in this league? Or will he hang on in the hopes that he can earn that fifth ring?
The guy’s not dead, by any means, but the Spurs are quickly approaching a crossroads that the lockout may help solve. On the other hand, a missed season means a year of rest for Duncan, as well as $21 million in lost salary that he’ll never see. If he’s feeling healthy and wouldn’t mind recouping some of that cash with one last contract, who would blame the guy? Maybe he’s got more gas left in the tank than any of us think. We’ve certainly underestimated the San Antonio Spurs before.
Goodbye Preseason, Regular Season Games Next?
If you’re interested in knowing what happened at Saturday’s seven-hour negotiation session in New York between the players and owners, all you need do is peruse the HOOPSWORLD Newslines, and you’ll get plenty of links to articles breaking down what was discussed and what Commissioner David Stern and Billy Hunter had to say about it.
But in the Twitterverse, experts and bloggers are doing their fair share of breaking down what all of this means, and what they expect to see happen in the next few days as we approach the due date for saving the regular season.
David Aldridge, for example, has perhaps the most depressing analysis of the day on his own Twitter page: “Bottom line after 12+ hours of weekend negotiations: preseason is gone. & only a matter of time before beginning of reg season goes as well.”
Stern has said that the league won’t announce any more cancellations on Monday, but it was said heading into the weekend that unless both sides came out of these discussions with a deal, the rest of the preseason would go bye-bye. We can only wait a couple more days until it starts to look inevitable that regular season games will begin disappearing, too.
HOOPSWORLD’s Steve Kyler, on his Twitter, reads between the lines about as well as anyone. “There is a fair labor deal here,” Kyler tweeted. “Both sides are close enough to see it, but it will require some give & take & that happens far too slowly.”
The discussions on Saturday had nothing to do with the BRI split. Instead, both sides focused on the nature of the salary cap. Players would rather keep things as they are, but the owners want a hard cap like the NFL has so they can remove any anxieties about payrolls over-inflating from year-to-year. But, as Kyler explains, that isn’t likely to happen.
“Players will never agree to a hard cap in the NBA… Never,” Kyler said, adding, “The owners won’t get the players to agree to a hard cap, a salary rollback & a drop in BRI – they can not agree to it, it won’t pass a vote.”
When Kyler asked some players what would happen if the offers from the league started getting worse with the loss of paychecks, the players said they’d just keep saying no to the cruddy proposals. It absolutely is not a joke that both sides are willing to sit out and entire season to make sure that the right deal gets put on the table.
Yes, current players are going to lose far more money by sitting out that long because, let’s face it, the deal on the table is only going to get marginally better at best, but putting a ten-year CBA into place isn’t just about saving the financial lives of current players. They’ll lose their fair share of money, but they want to make sure that the rookies of the future are provided for as well. To put it into perspective, players who will be rookies the last year of the new CBA are currently somewhere between 7 and 11 years old right now.
It hurts us and it hurts the league and it hurts teams and players to not have a deal right now, but for the betterment and financial stability of the league long-term, this is something they’ve simply got to do.
Hopefully, apathy doesn’t set in with fans too quickly, because the league has already lost of the new-found fans they gained in the 2011 playoffs. The sooner they get a deal, the sooner they can stop the bleeding.