When Dwight Howard opted to stay with the Orlando Magic for loyalty’s sake, Dwyane Wade just laughed.
Loyalty is a rare commodity in the NBA these days.
Stability may be something that every franchise desires, but can't seem to sustain. General Managers are increasingly less patient, head coaches are getting fired after two years, and superstars want to leave the small market teams for the big market teams.
The Reggie Miller’s, John Stockton’s, Kobe Bryant’s, and David Robinson’s are now a rare breed. It was rare for players to stay on the same team ten years ago, but it’s even rarer now.
That’s what makes the off-season so fun. Whether you’re a free agent now, an impending free agent next year, or a valuable trading piece for a team that wants to get better, no one is safe. Fans want to know where Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum will eventually end up. Players, more than ever before, are now vagabonds, journeymen, sojourners, and nomads.
However, one name that is never mentioned in the midst of his pending free agency is Tim Duncan. I suppose it's because everyone just assumed that he was going to resign with the Spurs.
While other players are trying to gain leverage against their own teams, Tim has already revealed all his cards. The cornerstone of the Spurs recently said, “I’m not going anywhere. You can print that wherever you want to. I’m here and I’m a Spur for life.”
Since being drafted by the Spurs in ’97, the possibility of Duncan leaving the Spurs occurred only once; when the Magic hotly courted him to join emerging superstar, Grant Hill.
The decision was not as easy as it may seem today though. At that time in Spurs history, David Robinson was gone, Tony and Manu were still unproven, and you needed at least two superstars to win a championship. Grant Hill, on the other hand, was an up and coming superstar in the league; a character guy that could easily and willingly share the load with Tim Duncan.
But Duncan stayed put.
A part of it was loyalty, a part of it was Pop and R.C., and a part of it was building upon what was already being built. Four championships later, Tim has no regrets about being a Spur for the rest of his career.
"Though I shouldn't say that; I have to threaten them that I'll leave," Duncan joked.
Duncan's preemptive reassurance may not give Pop and R.C. the same sigh of relief that it did years ago when the Magic were pursuing him, but it does help them move forward as they now tackle the bigger question revolving around their aging superstar - how much is he worth?