Rest easy San Antonio fans, The Big Fundamental remains fundamentally sound. After rolling his leg under Washington’s Martell Webster, fears that the Spurs’ season was over without Tim Duncan sounded louder than the hush following Derek Fisher’s 0.4 shot.
At 36 years old, the prospect of him returning from such a blow seemed dim, especially in the wake of the Rondo sinking. Luckily for the Spurs, their dreams of pursuing a fifth Larry O’Brien remain as intact as their power forward’s left knee. An MRI of Duncan’s knee showed no visible structural damage, and is listed as a day-to-day return.
The news is especially uplifting considering that the Spurs sit atop of the league’s front runners, and have dominated many of the latest power rankings. As is part of their makeup, they have planted flags across the NBA’s many divisions without garnering much applause in the process.
The fanfare was loudest when San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich decided to sit four of his best players against the Miami Heat back in November. The Spurs have since coolly dominated both conferences, much on the resurgence of Duncan who is playing efficient and high-impact minutes.
That success can continue without Timmy, as four consecutive wins without No. 21 proved last week, but his All-Star play would surely be missed come playoff time. The rest Popovich prides his strategy on might have been the best indicator of Duncan’s resilience as he’s missed 33 games since the 2004-2005 campaign mostly due to coach-prescribed restings, and not injuries.
Rest will continue to be Popovich’s weapon of choice as he weans his franchise player back from the MRI table. Though Duncan is expected to return during the Spurs’ upcoming nine-game rodeo trip, except Popovich to keep him on conservative minutes until mid-February. The fabled All-Star has worked through similar injuries before, but not on his way up to 40, and not while precariously weighing the closing window of a dynasty.
If Duncan is to catch Kobe, he’ll be smart to respect Popovich’s fatherly approach.