Tim Duncan will help the Spurs mount a title defense next season.
The 38-year-old Duncan has exercised his player option for the 2014-15 season, according to Yahoo Sports and USA Today Sports. The five-time champion will therefore earn $10.3 million next year before becoming an unrestricted free agent when his three-year contract expires in July 2015.
Throughout the Spurs’ run to the 2014 title, Duncan had carefully avoided any contract talk, despite rumors that he might decide to retire by going out on top.
“I don’t have any plans on doing anything,” Duncan said, one day before San Antonio’s closeout Game 5 victory over Miami. “I’m going to figure it out when it comes. I’m not saying I’m retiring. I’m not saying I’m not retiring. I’m not saying anything. I’m going to figure it out as it goes. I’ve always said if I feel like I’m effective, if I feel like I can contribute, I’ll continue to play. Right now I feel that way, so we’ll see what happens.”
That stance was consistent with Duncan’s comments prior to the start of the Finals, in which he said he would wait until the offseason to address his future.
“I’ve not come to that point yet,” Duncan said, when asked about the possibility of retirement. “I don’t know when that’s going to come about. I don’t know when I’m going to retire, I don’t know what the factors are going to be. I don’t know any of that and I don’t care about any of that stuff right now. … There will be time to look back on [my career] once everything is over. For now, all I’m focusing on is trying to get another [title].”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is also expected to return. Prior to Game 5 of the Finals, Popovichexpressed a desire to continue coaching after the just-completed season. Like Duncan, Popovich is under contract through the 2014-15 season.
“I don’t feel tired,” he said. “I’m tired today, but I mean in general. I’d like to continue to coach.”
Asked to clarify if he meant beyond this season, the 2014 Coach of the Year assented.
“Sure,” Popovich said. “I didn’t think I was going to have to answer those kind of questions today.”
The No. 1 pick in the 1997 draft, Duncan has won five titles during a storied 17-year career that will make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Popovich has overseen the entirety of Duncan’s career, compiling a 967-443 (.686) record since taking over as Spurs coach in 1996.
Duncan is still producing at a remarkably high level. He averaged 15.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, three assists and 1.9 blocks per game this season, despite playing less than 30 minutes a night. His Player Efficiency Rating of 21.3 placed him among the top 15 big men in the league. During the postseason, Duncan averaged 16.3 points and 9.1 rebounds, and he scored seven straight points in overtime to lead San Antonio to a closeout victory over Oklahoma City in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals.
“We’ve been on our last run for the last five or six years from how everyone [in the media] wants to put it,” Duncan said before Game 5. “We show up every year, and we try to put together the best teams and the best runs possible because what people say doesn’t matter to us. As I said, as long as we feel we’re being effective, we’re going to stay out here and we’re going to play. We feel like we can be effective, and we have been.”
A 14-time All-Star, two-time MVP and three-time Finals MVP, Duncan became the only starting player in NBA history to win titles in three different decades.
The Spurs won a league-best 62 game this season and almost all of their key players — including Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tiago Splitter, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, among others — are already under contract for the 2014-15 season.
Duncan will enter next season as one of the league’s oldest players. It’s possible that Lakers guard Steve Nash, Heat guard Ray Allen and Wizards guard Andre Miller will be the only three players who are older than Duncan and on rosters to begin the 2014-15 season.
Prior to the start of the Finals, Popovich laid out his vision for how Duncan will ride off into basketball’s sunset.
“He wants to hang around as long as he can while he’s useful and while he’s having an impact on the game,” Popovich said. “He does everything he can to maintain a level of play. At some point that will stop. 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.”