Good Country for Old Men

Jan 13, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard Andre Miller (24) dribbles past San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) during the second half at Verizon Center. The Wizards won 101-93. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 13, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard Andre Miller (24) dribbles past San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) during the second half at Verizon Center. The Wizards won 101-93. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /

The oldest player in the NBA could not have chosen better than the San Antonio Spurs.

In regular human years, the age of 39 isn’t a big deal. One is considered old enough to know better but young enough to still appreciate and enjoy things. Indeed, 40 is the new 20. Basketball years, however, are a different story.

At 39, a veteran NBA player should theoretically be getting a 5 percent discount at the grocery store on Wednesdays, due to all of the wear and tear on the body, and league experience.

Unless you’re a member of the San Antonio Spurs. In which case, age ain’t nothin’ but a number.

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This is a subtext to the current iteration of the Spurs, perhaps because we keep seeing their players do things that defy the aging process.

As always, such things start with team captain Tim Duncan, who will turn 40 in April. Despite being borderline eligible for a handicapped sticker on his license tag, Duncan just passed Karl Malone to become sixth in NBA history in rebounds, and on the same night notched his 3,000th block–only the fifth player in NBA history to do so.

Did I mention he’s 39?

Then there’s Manu Ginobili, who must draw power through his prominent bald spot to still make the crazy plays that he does–at the age of 38. The leader of the vaunted “Juice Unit” has pulled the starting five’s chestnuts out of the fire this season more often that not. When the starting unit can’t seem to get the ball in the basket, it’s Ginobili et al to the rescue to make something happen.

Thirty-eight years old, y’all.

Matt Bonner, the Red Rocket/Red Mamba himself, may only play more garbage time these days, but at the age of 35 he’s still getting it done.

Thirty. Five. Years. Old.

Let’s not forget David West, also 35 years old, who has consistently shown up in every game all season.


Now the latest addition to the league’s AARP squad is none other than Andre Miller, who is literally the oldest active player in the league right now (his birthday is in March and Duncan’s is in April, though they were both born in the same year).

Miller will turn 40 in a few weeks; since being waived by the Minnesota Timberwolves, he apparently decided to start his birthday off in style by bucking for a championship ring with some more old guys.

Welcome to today’s NBA, where Father Time rides the pine.


Miller is not just a pity signing; the Spurs are loyal, and they love veteran players, but they don’t spend money unless it’s necessary. Miller will be necessary as a backup point guard, given Tony Parker‘s recent injury history.

His playmaking has dipped tremendously this season, but a change of scenery (plus a legitimate chance to get the championship ring that has thus eluded him) may do wonders for Miller’s productivity.

Will Duncan and Ginobili (when he returns) scoot over to make room for Miller in the Hot Tub of Youth before games?

I guess the Spurs need to order more phoenix juice and unicorn tears for the pre- and post-game meals.

Despite his recent scoring foibles, Miller came to the right place. As I have mentioned before, older players tend to do well while wearing the Silver and Black.

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A combination of minutes management plus a deep roster of players who know their roles and can work together to get the win, equals veteran players whose careers have been extended way past what even they thought may have been possible.

Miller won’t have to be worried about being worn down to a nub by the time the regular season ends in April; Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has sat his younger players–most recently Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge–for rest purposes before, and even incurred a fine by resting all of his starters once.

This once-renegade practice is now catching on throughout the league–and teams don’t have to write a check to the league offices anymore to do it.

The Spurs were early adoptees of not only analytics, but also sports technology that monitors all aspects of a player’s physical being. Employing these tactics have helped keep aging players on the court much longer than their predecessors.

The Spurs are doing the opposite of every other team in the league by getting older instead of younger as they seek to remain true to their identity, even as they try to find a chink in the armor of the Golden State Warriors. Then again, they’ve had five championships’ worth of going against the grain and having it work out.

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There is no reason to think that Miller will be the next in a long line of gambles that have paid off.