With the possible exception of Kobe Bryant, no active NBA player is identified with one franchise more than Tim Duncan with the San Antonio Spurs. Over his 14-season career, he has helped define the team's on-court style, their general demeanor, and the franchise's air of professionalism. You can debate whether or not the '00s Spurs were a dynasty, but there's no question that Duncan has had a huge effect on the direction of the league since he arrived in San Antonio.
Tim Duncan is not expected to opt out of the final year of his contract, and the Spurs don't plan to offer him an extension before the collective bargaining agreement expires Thursday, according to a source familiar with talks between the team and the franchise icon.
As such, Duncan will play out the final year of his existing deal, during which he is scheduled to earn $21.2 million, and remains on track to become a free agent after the 2011-12 campaign.
Duncan also faces a Thursday deadline to exercise an early-termination option. His apparent decision not to do so is not surprising in light of the league's unsure labor climate. [...]
Should Duncan choose to continue playing after next season, the Spurs would prefer to re-sign him under the new set of salary rules, which are generally expected to be more favorable to small-market clubs.
Duncan's decision is not controversial in the least -- he stands to make a lot of money in 2011-12 and the Spurs would prefer to pay him that salary while getting a larger discount on the next deal. It was expected, and it's not a sign that Duncan will walk next summer.
Still, it's a possibility that has to be considered. Duncan has a reputation as a selfless team player, but he may want star money even though he's 35 years old and takes on a less important role in the San Antonio game plan with every passing season. The Spurs have always shown themselves to be practical, and it's possible that they'll balk at having to pay him a lot of money. Given the circumstances, it's possible to imagine a circumstance in which both sides can't reach a workable number and Duncan switches teams.
Stars often finish their careers on random teams looking like shells of their former selves. Hopefully the same doesn't happen to Duncan. He defines the Spurs so well that it's hard to imagine him in any other colors.