This is not really a surprise to anybody as former Wake Forest forward Tim Duncan has been making less money in recent dealings with the Spurs to increase their competitiveness. The fruits of those labors have been a deeper bench and the ability to attract needed role players. The Spurs are approximately $9 million under the salary cap right now with forward Boris Diaw, backup point guard Patrick Mills, and forward Matt Bonner coming off the books. Much of that money will likely be used to keep Diaw and Mills, both key pieces for the Spurs championship unit.
The one thing that could be revealing is Duncan’s decision not to negotiate a longer deal, which he certainly could have done. This suggests that Duncan is now looking at his future on a year-to-year basis. At 38, Duncan must know there may not be many years left. This allows him not to feel obligated to hang on past his prime and go out on his own terms.
If anyone has earned that right it is Duncan. He has been, very quietly at times, the best player of his generation. He simply produces year after year with a minimum of drama. While Miami’s Big Three are perhaps more famous for taking less money to bring home a championship, Duncan has made that trade for years and has gotten point guard Tony Parker and guard Manu Ginobili to buy in too. Did you know that Parker is making $12.5 million this year or Ginobili $7 million? Russell Westbrook makes $15 million and Chris Paul $21 million by comparison. For Ginobili, guard Marcus Thornton and guard Rodney Stuckey made more this year.
Whenever Duncan leaves it will be the end of an era. Of his old ACC rivals, only former Tar Heel and current Dallas Mavericks guard Vince Carter is really active anymore. He is the last man standing of the 1997 draft, which was held in Charlotte. Of his fellow draftees, Jacque Vaughn is now coaching in the league where Duncan still plays. Maybe he’ll get one more title, and maybe he won’t. One thing though is certain, we have witnessed a Hall of Fame career done the right way.