This year, when the San Antonio Spurs take the court, there is a noticeable difference. Coach Pop is still roaming the sidelines with his trademark scowl, the team still comes out in their traditional silver and black; but there’s one big thing missing, something fundamental to who the Spurs are, a Big Fundamental, if you will.
This season the Spurs have been without Tim Duncan for the first time since the 1996-1997 season. It’s certainly a weird feeling watching as a lifelong Spurs fan. I was 5 years old when Tim Duncan was drafted, which mean as far back as I can remember, Duncan has been a Spur. But as weird as it may be to watch the Duncan-less Spurs, they appear to be getting along just fine.
The Spurs have started the season with a 9-3 record and don’t appear to be significantly affected, at least in quality of play, with Duncan’s absence. The reason for this could be that Pop has done an excellent job the past few years of phasing Duncan out of having such an important role. The rise of Kawhi Leonard as a superstar is certainly a factor in the easy transition, as is the addition of NBA All-Star Pau Gasol, but the genius of Coach Popovich along with the cohesion of the Spurs organization are likely the main reason the lack of Duncan hasn’t been as noticeable on the court.
Although we won’t be playing, Duncan will be on the court at the AT&T Center at least one more night on December 18th, when the Spurs will retire his number after their game that night. It might not be the same as seeing him play, but at least fans can get one more glimpse of the man who gave so much to the Spurs organization.