Work in Sports
Duncan spurns Magic to stay in San Antonio
Posted: Tuesday July 11, 2000 06:58 PM
The biggest prize in this year's NBA free-agent pool, Duncan on Tuesday announced he will re-sign with the San Antonio Spurs, dashing the Orlando Magic's hopes of teaming him with five-time all-star free agent Grant Hill.
"Orlando had a lot to offer," Duncan said in a brief news conference with his agent, Lon Babby, and girlfriend Amy Sherrill. "I went down there and had a good time. When it came down to it, I just like what I had here."
Namely, a tall and talented frontcourt teammate in the 7-foot-1 Robinson. The 24-year-old Duncan and 34-year-old Robinson led San Antonio to the NBA title in 1998-99 and Duncan says he believes they can win it again.
The Spurs were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round last season while Duncan sat on the bench with a knee injury. And although Robinson is nearing the end of his career, he is still considered one of the top centers in the league.
"We have a great opportunity with myself and David at the core of the whole thing and the fact that we have won it before," Duncan said.
Duncan became a free agent July 1 and under NBA rules can't sign a new contract until Aug. 1.
The Magic offered Duncan a six-year contract worth $67.5 million. He could sign a seven-year deal worth $86.5 million with San Antonio, although he is considered more likely to sign a shorter deal.
Duncan and the Spurs wouldn't say Tuesday what contract terms are being discussed.
Speculation ran high that Duncan would sign with the Magic when he and Hill both visited Orlando together earlier this month. The players were wined and dined at fine hotels and luxurious parties with team officials. Hill came away from the trip saying he would sign with the Magic.
John Gabriel, Orlando Magic general manager, said, "We tried to exhaust every opportunity. We tried to change his mind and sway him. We made a battle out of it. We took the best shot that we could."
But Duncan never committed, even though he says he thought hard about leaving San Antonio.
"I was in and I was out," Duncan said. "When I went down and saw what they had to offer, it made my decision a lot harder."
Duncan said he hadn't talked to Hill about his decision to remain in San Antonio. "It's his decision," Duncan said about Hill's commitment to the Magic.
Spurs head coach and general manager Gregg Popovich appeared relieved by Duncan's announcement.
"We haven't worried about contracts yet," Popovich said. "We've just discussed the obvious. We'll take care of things. This was the biggie."
Actually, it was huge. With the Spurs' lineup getting older, keeping Duncan was vital to remaining a championship contender as the team builds a new $175 million facility set to open for the 2002-2003 season.
Fans practically begged Duncan to stay, peppering the city with billboards and posters screaming "Stay Tim! Stay." Robinson cut short his Hawaiian vacation to talk to Duncan, who wouldn't say what the players discussed.
"Tim and David have a very good relationship. The fact David on his own came back here to see Tim impressed him," Popovich said.
Duncan also wouldn't say if the team made him any promises to pursue particular free agents to build a team around him.
Popovich, however, said Duncan's commitment allows the Spurs to start talking to other players about signing with San Antonio. Los Angeles Clippers guard Derek Anderson was scheduled to be in town Tuesday.
"There are other people we'd like to have visit. We sort of held everybody off until we got this situation behind us," Popovich said. "When look at Tim and David, that's a good draw."
Popovich said he tried not to think about the possibility of losing Duncan, but said the possibility of losing his star player was nerve-racking.
"I was bouncing off the walls, if the truth be known," Popovich said.
"I felt great this morning when I heard those words come out of his mouth."