Burning Questions

Thanks to Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, the offseason came two victories shy of the NBA Finals for the Spurs.

What’s next for the Western Conference runners-up? Here is the answer to that question with five more, plus one:

How badly does Tim Duncan just want to eat red meat and play “Call of Duty” all day?

The Spurs’ franchise player since draft day 1997, Duncan’s contract famously expires July 1. Whether he decides, at age 36, to sign another one will largely hinge on the answer to the question above.

Duncan proved this season that his body can still handle the rigors of an NBA season, but it takes hard work — and a stringent low-fat diet — to make that happen. If Duncan is ready to finally unstrap that omnipresent knee brace, sink his teeth into a cheeseburger and fire up the Xbox in retirement, nobody would blame him.

If Duncan does decide he’d still like to play “until the wheels fall off,” expect the Spurs to come to a workable agreement with him. Duncan’s not playing anywhere else.

So how much is an aging franchise player going for these days anyway?

Less than the $21.1 million Duncan made last season, but probably more than you’d think.

Duncan appeared rejuvenated during the lockout-shortened season, including a 25-and-14 performance in Wednesday’s Game 6 ouster in OKC. Though clearly no longer an MVP candidate — and, according to the voters at least, no longer an All-Star — Duncan remains a quality NBA big man, and those don’t come cheap.

The Spurs have other free agents to address (namely guard Danny Green and center Boris Diaw), but must first gauge what their payroll looks like after they re-up Duncan.

How dangerous are the Olympics for Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker?

Put it this way: Coach Gregg Popovich plans to attend the London Games this summer, but don’t be surprised if he watches matches involving Argentina and France with both hands covering his eyes.

Who can forget the sight of Ginobili rolling around on the court in 2008 in Beijing, clutching an injured left ankle that would soon require surgery? Of equal concern is the daily toll year-round basketball takes on 30-something bodies, and neither Parker (30) nor Ginobili (soon-to-be 35) is getting younger.

With the Olympics piled on top of a deep playoff run, expect Popovich to give his international backcourt plenty of rest come training camp and the preseason in October.

Should we prepare for more draft-night drama?

After years of using draft night to select players whose names fans couldn’t pronounce from countries they couldn’t locate on a map, then stashing them overseas for future use (or not), the Spurs made a bold move last June to land Kawhi Leonard at No. 15.

The Spurs do not have a first-round pick in the June 28 draft, having shipped it to Golden State in the March trade for Stephen Jackson, but won’t rule out trying to move up for the right player and right price.

Tiago Splitter: linchpin or liability?

Somewhere in the middle. The former first-round pick produced a sophomore campaign significantly more impactful than his first, doubling his scoring average to 9.3 points per game, and increasing his rebounding and blocks, while serving as a capable backup to Duncan.

But Splitter fell off the map during the latter part of the Western Conference finals, proving his upside has limits. The 6-foot-11 Splitter never was meant to be the heir-apparent to Duncan as the centerpiece big man, but should be a useful rotation piece going forward.

Bonus question: Should Erazem Lorbek and Nando de Colo look into obtaining work visas?

A 6-foot-10 forward from Slovenia currently playing with Ricky Rubio’s old club in Spain, Lorbek was a sidepiece of the Leonard deal. De Colo, a 6-foot-5 guard from France, has also been playing in Spain since the Spurs drafted him 53rd overall in 2009.

Both have a chance to cross the pond and join the Spurs next season, depending on how the free-agency landscape shakes out. If you’re handicapping it, expect Lorbek to make the jump before de Colo.


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