The reporters have gone and the room is still and smelling of pizza and dried Gatorade. The cameras aren’t snapping at him now. There are no more questions. There’s are no more praises. There’s just Tim Duncan, alone at his locker, towel wrapped around his waist, looking his age for the first time all night.
30 and 17, he had.
At 37 years of age.
His head is down and his eyes run along the carpet of the visitors locker room while a shower drips into a drain beyond the cocaine white tile wall that separates the lockers from the bathroom.
Paddy Mills approaches slowly, like he’s walking up to a sleeping shark. He’s holding a pen in one hand and his right Adidas in the other.
“Excuse me, Mr. Duncan,” he says, “I know you said to never ask you again, but you played, just, so super tonight that I was wondering if, perhaps, I could get your autograph? Please, sir?”
Duncan’s eyes stay on the carpet. They’re tired. He has no time for this. Mills leaves after a minute of silence.
Soon the rest slowly begin to file out. Parker leaves. So to does Ginobili. Bruce Bowen, who got into the locker room somehow, has been crying in the corner since the game ended. He picks up his things, bow ties and confiscated ankle braces, mostly, and tries to talk to Duncan.
“You think you guys can take ’em, Timmy?” he asks.
Again Duncan doesn’t look up. His eyes still running along the Moroccan red of the carpet. The red deep and bright all at once, like old, Champion brand Chicago Bulls shorts. A minute of silence again and still Duncan does not speak. Bowen gives up on his question and leaves, weeping once more.
The room is empty now, except for Duncan. He stands and walks into the bathroom. He looks around. Nothing. No one.
He walks out back into the locker room. Nothing. No one.
He walks back beyond the bathroom into the training room area. Nothing. No one.
He is alone. Folding himself again, he drops down onto the chair in front of his locker and reaches into a black duffel bag on his right. He pulls from it a clock. It is the clock that had been hanging on the opposite wall when the team arrived.
It is digital. The time reads 11:34 PM EST, as it should. It is the date that is strange.
Duncan stands up with the clock in his hands and begins to walk to the opposite wall of the room. He stands on top of a chair. This is when the door to the room opens.
It is Gregg Popovich.
They look at each other. Neither smile. Neither frown. Duncan turns back to the wall as Popovich watches him hang the clock up where it had been before the game.
When the clock is hung, Duncan presses “Settings”. He goes through the list of options, past hours and minutes, past the weather, past the alarm, until he gets to the date. He skips the month and the day and arrives at the year. He clicks the button ten times to bring it to 2013, then steps down from the chair.
He takes a few steps to the middle of the room, keeping his eyes on the red once more. He rests them there for a minute, hoping Popovich will leave, but he never does. He never has. It’s always been the both of them, side by stoic side, better together. Duncan’s eyes rise up to meet Popovich’s. When they finally connect, he sees a glassiness to Pop’s eyes not previously seen. A stillness.
Duncan exhales a long breath and speaks.
“Had to turn back the clock.”
Popovich leaves and Duncan stands there, eyeing the red, unable to anger himself, trying to muster strength.