Duncan plans on returning to Spurs

AP Basketball WriterJune 23, 2014 

Tim Duncan could have easily gone out on top, with his fifth NBA championship trophy under his arm and his health intact just a few months after his 38th birthday.

There's just no way. Duncan is having too much fun with his San Antonio Spurs coaches and teammates, and he's playing too well to call it quits now.

Duncan has decided to exercise the option on his contract for 2014-15 and will return next season, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Monday. The person requested anonymity because an official announcement has not been made.

As the Spurs beat the two-time defending champion Miami Heat in the NBA Finals earlier this month, Duncan was asked several times about his future, as he has been for the last five or six years. He was noncommittal, saying he would take some time after the season ended to mull his decision.

But after Game 5, most of the Spurs said they expected the group to return and now Duncan has reached his decision, which was first reported by Yahoo! Sports. He will make about $10.3 million next season in the final year of a two-year agreement that was drawn up specifically to allow the Spurs the financial flexibility to surround Duncan with top-shelf talent.

"He feels a responsibility to his teammates," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after the team won the championship. "He enjoys them. He wants to hang around as long as he can while he's useful and while he's having an impact on the game. He takes care of his body. He works out all summer long with a variety of different things, boxing, swimming. He's very careful about what he puts in his body, so he does everything he can to maintain a level of play.

"At some point," Popovich added, "that will stop."

But not this year.

When Duncan looked around at the Spurs, he saw every reason to come back and try to do just about the only thing the Spurs haven't done during his 17 years there -- win back-to-back titles.

In Popovich he has perhaps the best coach in the game, one who has established a culture of teamwork, success and stability that is unparalleled in the league. In Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, he has two trusted teammates who have been by his side for years, have sacrificed money, fame and statistics right along with him to build the Spurs organization into the envy of the NBA.

And in Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, Duncan has a young, fresh-faced star on the rise to carry more of the load as the Big Three get older.

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