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Spurs star Tim Duncan acknowledges that he's appreciating the game more as career winds down

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San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan, right, shoots as Tony Parker, left, looks on during basketball practice at the NBA Finals, Wednesday, June 11, 2014, in Miami. The Spurs lead the Miami Heat 2-1 in the best-of-seven games series. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) (The Associated Press)

Tim Duncan offered a rare acknowledgement: He's thinking about the end of his career.

No, the San Antonio star didn't announce retirement plans during an off day at the NBA Finals on Wednesday. But a player who has almost always declined the chance to discuss his own legacy after 17 seasons in the NBA — all with the Spurs — Duncan provided a glimpse of what's going through his mind as his career is clearly much closer to the end than the beginning.

"I think in the last couple years I've really kind of taken a step back and stopped and enjoyed what the journey means," Duncan said on the eve of Game 4 of these NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, a series that the Spurs lead 2-1. "I think, as it comes to a close on my career — and I know it is — I appreciate it more."

The 38-year-old Duncan has been superb so far in this series, averaging 17.7 points on nearly 65 percent shooting from the floor. If the Spurs win the championship, it would be Duncan's fifth crown.

Only 13 players in NBA history have ever been part of more championship series than that.

And if Spurs coach Gregg Popovich knows Duncan's exit plans — this year, next year, or otherwise — he's not tipping his hand.

"It will probably be the third quarter of some game on the road some year, and he'll feel like he's not as significant and he'll walk into the locker room," Popovich said earlier in this series.

Before the start of this rematch finals against Miami, Duncan — who has an option for next season at just over $10 million, an absolute bargain by NBA standards for someone at his level of production — said he's not thinking about retirement and doesn't even "care about any of that stuff."

On Wednesday, he acknowledged that he's savoring these finals, since nothing about the future is ever guaranteed.

"I appreciate every game more," Duncan said. "I appreciate every accomplishment, and everything that we get to go through and every experience, knowing that it might be the last time I do it."