Spurs coach Gregg Popovich actually joked in front of reporters a month ago about Duncan asking for another three-year contract. But jokes are all you can hope to get regarding how much longer Duncan expects to play—in-house, that is.
The San Antonio mantra to block out any distractions from the here and now has only intensified since a momentary loss of focus 25 seconds too early cost them a fifth title last summer. That's why you'll see Popovich haranguing his players this season more than ever for a slip in execution, even with a double-digit lead—and why his players are willing to take it.
"He also went through a nasty divorce that leaves him driving Sydney, 9, and Draven, 7, to school at 7:30 a.m. and catching naps in the Spurs' training facility before practice. He makes a point of having them on the bench as he warms up for games and getting them set up in the family room before tipoff. They wait for him in the tunnel to the locker room for a quick hug or high five at halftime. He has, at least once, sat down in the hallway outside the Spurs locker room to adjudicate a tiff between them before joining his teammates in the locker room."
"As far as basketball and his love for the game, that hasn't changed in the 17 years I've known him," says Stephen Jackson, who played parts of four seasons with Duncan, first in 2003 and again eight years later. "As soon as the season is over, I guarantee you there aren't three guys in the league who will be in the gym before him.""He's a different one because it's this internal fire," says Spurs assistant coach Sean Marks, whose 11 playing seasons included two with Duncan. "He'd never say it, but I think he wants to be remembered as one of the best ever—best power forward, top five all time. You'll never hear that come from his mouth, but somewhere it's deep down in there."