POSTED: Jun 23, 2014 6:58 PM ET
UPDATED: Jun 23, 2014 7:31 PM ET
It was not a surprise, but Tim Duncan is delaying the start of the five-year grace period between the end of his playing career and his inevitable Hall of Fame induction by at least one more season.
Duncan informed the San Antonio Spurs on Monday that he would return for an 18th season next fall, completing the final year of his contract for $10.3 million. It will allow the Spurs to likely return their full squad to try and defend their championship, won in five games earlier this month over two-time champion Miami. He must officially inform them in writing, but that is expected to occur in the next couple of days.
News: Tim Duncan Will Return
Duncan will turn 39 next April, but has shown he can still be an effective player in the Spurs' system at both ends of the floor, though he's slowed down some and isn't quite as dominant in the low post as he once was. With Coach Gregg Popovich keeping him on a strict minutes rotation most of the season, Duncan played in 74 games for the Spurs, again almost averaging a double-double (15.1 points, 9.7 rebounds) as San Antonio earned the best record in the league.
He saved some of his best basketball for the final two rounds of the playoffs.
Duncan had double-doubles in the last two games of the Western Conference finals against Oklahoma City, including the clinching Game 6 win against the Thunder when he took over in overtime to carry the Spurs without injured point guard Tony Parker. He then shot 56.9 percent (29-of-51) in the Finals against the Heat, including 9-of-10 shots in San Antonio's Game 1 victory, and averaged 15.4 points and 10 rebounds against Miami in the five-game victory.
In the midst of the Spurs' Finals victory, Duncan passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the NBA's all-time leader in playoff minutes. He is already the league's all-time leader in playoff blocked shots, and is third in playoff rebounds, fourth in career playoff games and fifth in career playoff points.
The Spurs have two remaining significant free agents from their core group, forward Boris Diaw and guard Patty Mills, who gave San Antonio a huge spark off the bench. But both are expected to re-sign with the Spurs, though Mills may get some nibbles elsewhere. With Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili all in the last year of their contracts next season, speculation will build yet again if San Antonio's "Big Three" is ending the conclusion of its spectacular run, which includes four championships for the trio (Duncan won his fifth as a rookie alongside David Robinson).
Yahoo! Sports first reported Duncan's intention to return.