Sidelined for four straight games with a sore left knee, Spurs forward Tim Duncan says watching his teammates run the table without him helped assuage any guilt he might have felt about sitting out.

Healed and itching to get back on the floor, however, Duncan on Thursday issued a warning should general manager R.C. Buford get any wise ideas about the 36-year-old captain's place in the Spurs' pantheon.

"I have a clause in my contract," Duncan said. "If I get traded, I take a bunch of people with me."

All-Star point guard Tony Parker and standout sixth man Manu Ginobili would be first on the list of hostages, Duncan says.

And as for 3-point ace Matt Bonner?

"He'd be in the top 12," Duncan deadpanned.

If nothing else, it was heartening to know Duncan's biting sense of humor required no rehabilitation.

Having not played since tweaking his knee in a Jan. 21 victory in Philadelphia, Duncan said after practice he plans to return for Saturday's game against Washington at the AT&T Center.

The newly re-established All-Star concedes final say will belong to coach Gregg Popovich, but contends he probably could have participated in Wednesday's 102-78 victory over Charlotte that extended the Spurs' winning streak to a season-high nine games.

"We gave it a couple extra days to get back to 100 percent, kind of be smart about it," Duncan said.

An ailment to Duncan's problematic left knee — which was especially troublesome two seasons ago in the Spurs' first-round playoff ouster against Memphis — is never a laughing matter.

His latest tweak came after he landed awkwardly on a jump shot late in the win over the 76ers. Duncan finished that game with 24 points and 17 rebounds, but left Philly stiff and sore.

He doesn't believe the injury to be a long-term concern.

"I just landed wrong. I landed weird," said Duncan, a 15-year veteran. "I kind of jumped sideways to shoot a shot and came down and my leg kind of twisted."

It helped Duncan's psyche that the Spurs kept right on rolling with him in street clothes, notching victories over New Orleans, Dallas, Phoenix and Charlotte.