Aldridge joins Spurs Big Three for possible last ride

Washington (AFP) - Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli haul their aging bodies back for another punishing NBA season with the San Antonio Spurs in what could be Big Three's last stand.

But combined with newcomer LaMarcus Aldridge from Portland and rising star Kawhi Leonard, a solid supporting cast and US sport's longest-tenured coach in Gregg Popovich, the Spurs might just be a threat for their second title in three seasons next June.

Duncan, a 39-year-old power forward, has sparked San Antonio to NBA titles in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014 with French point guard Parker, 33, and Argentine reserve guard Ginobili, 38, joining him in the past four championship runs.

The Spurs also boast Leonard, the 2014 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player and 2015 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and Aldridge, who has averaged more than 21 points a game over the past five seasons, could be the pivotal playmaker in what promises to be a new generation of San Antonio success.

"You have certain guys you go to -- Manu, Tony and Timmy were the three guys for most of their career," Popovich said. "It shifted from Timmy to Manu and Tony. Now it shifts a little bit towards Kawhi, a little bit towards LaMarcus. But you can't forget about Timmy, Manu and Tony."

Duncan has averaged 19.5 points and 11.0 rebounds a game for his career but last season had 13.9 points and 9.1 rebounds and was involved in only 22.2 percent of Spurs' plays, a career low. Even with that, he improved his shooting percentage to remain a more versatile threat.

Parker has 16.9 points, 5.9 assists and 2.9 rebounds a game while has Ginobili contributed 14.3 points, 4.0 assists and 3.8 rebounds over his career.

Those averages dropped last season, but only as contributions grew from such teammates as Danny Green, who took less money to stay with the Spurs, and Australian Patty Mills, who became a 3-point threat off the bench.

Add Aldridge and David West, who snubbed a richer deal from Indiana for a chance to join the Spurs, and its no wonder a team with 18 50-win seasons in a row looks likely to stretch that streak.

"The pressure is all on 'Pop' now," Parker said.

- Duncan must change his game -

There is some truth there, as Popovich must blend the young and old, work the newcomers into his style and split up the minutes so players are fit and on form when the playoffs arrive, just about the time Duncan turns 40.

"My role has changed a little bit this year. I'm trying to figure that part of it out," Duncan said. "But it's fun to be with the guys that I've been with for so many years and some new guys that I'm learning."

That means a transition to less of a scoring role and more of a supporting one.

"You have to try not to fight it," Duncan said. "We all want to do what we've always done. But you have to understand what's best for the team. It's about accepting that, finding your niche and your new role."

Ginobili considered retirement after last season but was lured back by his teammates saying they needed him back in the fold.

"There were points where I really thought about it," Ginobili said. "I watched the NBA Finals, talked to Timmy and Pop, saw that we signed the big fellow, and I wasn't ready to be an ex-player. I wanted to take this challenge. It was exciting enough."

"I wanted him here. I wanted him back," said Duncan. "Not having him around would've been a huge disappointment."