Tim Duncan has a player's option to become a free agent. Duncan endured a pretty disappointing season when the Spurs obtained the top seed but were bounced in the first round. Add an aging roster that Tony Parker publicly said (then recanted) is finished contending, and most All-Stars would test free agency, if for no other reason than to secure the best long-term deal to finish their careers.
But Duncan is not such an All-Star. Instead, he will not opt-out and will finish the final year of his contract.
From the San Antonio Express-News:
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.via Spurs Nation » Source: Duncan will not opt out.
It's a good fit on both sides. Duncan gets to make the max money, unlimited by a possible change to his first-year contract under the new CBA. The team doesn't have to worry about fitting Duncan in under a harder cap.
Now, Duncan will become a free agent in 2012, which means even if there's a delay in the new CBA taking hold, his next contract will either have to be shorter or facilitate what will likely be a smaller, harder cap. But at that point, he'll be just about ready to retire, so a shorter-term contract won't be much of a problem.
The Spurs' decision not to offer isn't surprising; it's likely part of the overall plan. The team isn't worried about Duncan finishing elsewhere. If he does, it'll be his decision, and a chance for the Spurs to truly move forward with rebuilding. But if that's the way things go down, it'll likely mean the end of the Popovich era as well.
Heading into this lockout, the forecast was even stormier for the Spurs than it was for the rest of the league.