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NBA: Spurs prepare for life without Tim Duncan

Published June 16, 2014 8:27 pm

San Antonio appears poised for success after big man's exit.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

San Antonio • Tim Duncan conducted his postgame interview flanked by his two children. Someday soon he may decide that they, and not Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, will be his full-time running mates.

Duncan's eventual retirement — whether it's next week, next summer, or after the next championship — probably won't be the end of what's been a 15-year run at or near the top for the San Antonio Spurs.

San Antonio appears to be positioned to keep rolling along. The Spurs looked better than ever in demolishing the Miami Heat in five games for their fifth championship, finishing it off with a 104-87 victory Sunday that set off a horn-honking celebration that lasted deep into the night.

With good players in place and perhaps unmatched leadership at the top that will find more, the Spurs don't figure to go away, even when their big man in the middle finally does.

"I think I said it many times. There was not one season since I'm in the NBA that I really didn't truly believe that we could have won it," Ginobili said. "Every year we were up there. Sometimes we were No. 1 and we lost in the first round. Some other times we were seventh and we had a shot at winning it.

"But playing with the teammates I've always played, coached by the guy that is coaching us, I always felt that we had a shot, and I truly never believed it was the last shot."

This probably wasn't, either.

True, the 38-year-old Duncan realizes the end is near, though he won't say and perhaps doesn't know how close it is. Ginobili will be 37 next month and may be entering the last stage of his career as well.

But Parker shows no signs of slowing down, NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard looks ready for an even bigger role, and coach Gregg Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford, whom Commissioner Adam Silver called "perhaps the greatest GM-coach combination in all of sports," have shown they can find good players and make them better once they don the silver and black.

"My secret is these guys behind me, Coach Pop and R.C. That's my secret," owner Peter Holt said. "It doesn't start at the top, it starts with them. And it's a wonderful group to be with."

The only prediction about the future Sunday night came from Popovich, and it was about the Heat. Though the former champions are heading into an uncertain summer with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all eligible for free agency, he said Miami would be back.

It wasn't long ago people had stopped saying that about San Antonio.

Beaten in the first round by rugged Memphis as the No. 1 seed in 2011, the Spurs didn't look strong enough. Ousted by Oklahoma City the next year after building a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals, San Antonio didn't seem quick enough.

Yet the Spurs made the necessary tweaks, and when it wasn't quite good enough last season against the Heat, they came back even more focused and left no doubt this time.