SAN ANTONIO -- Maybe the begging worked.
After weeks of pleas from fans to stay with their team, free-agent forward Tim Duncan reportedly is ready to sign a new deal with the Spurs, spurning the Orlando Magic and the opportunity to play with Grant Hill.
The Orlando Sentinel and the San Antonio Express-News reported that Duncan's representatives told Orlando general manager John Gabriel that Duncan will turn down the Magic's six-year, $67.5 million offer.
Lon Babby, Duncan's attorney, flew to San Antonio on Monday and met with Spurs officials. Contacted by The Associated Press, Magic officials declined comment until Duncan made an announcement.
Reports of Duncan's decision to remain in San Antonio brought welcome relief for Spurs fans, who had dotted the city in recent weeks with billboards and placards reading: "Stay Tim, Stay!"
The anxiety took off when the Magic made a hard push to lure Duncan and Hill. Both players traveled to Orlando on the same weekend and were treated to stays in one of the theme-park city's top resort hotels and luxurious parties hosted by Magic executives.
Duncan even got to meet Tiger Woods, who lives nearby.
Hill has said he will sign with Orlando. Had the Magic pulled off the Duncan deal, Orlando would have had the juggernaut lineup capable of tipping the balance of power in the Eastern Conference.
The Magic position, and the offer it makes, are unique. They have the NBA's coach of the year in Doc Rivers and enough salary cap room to sign two of the league's top free agents. Their future includes nine first-round draft picks.
But there was pressure from the Spurs as well. Veteran center David Robinson, who along with Duncan gives San Antonio the most formidable front line in the league, cut short his vacation in Hawaii to persuade Duncan to stay. The two guided San Antonio to its first NBA title in 1999.
With the Spurs' aging lineup, the 24-year-old Duncan is considered the key to San Antonio's future. Without him, the Spurs would be left with a brand-new $175 million arena for the 2002-2003 season and without one of the game's superstars.
In the end, it appears Duncan's loyalty to the Spurs and his desire to keep playing with Robinson won out.
"Tim stayed at Wake Forest all four years," an NBA source told the Express-News. "He isn't a guy who likes a lot of change in his life. He has played with David Robinson and for the same coach for the past three years. But the Magic made it a difficult decision for him."
Duncan could sign a seven-year deal worth $86.5 million if he re-signs with San Antonio, although he is likely to sign a shorter deal. Duncan has a nonbinding commitment to the Spurs and cannot officially sign a contract with the team until Aug. 1.
"I haven't heard anything," Spurs coach and general manager Gregg Popovich said. "He hasn't given me a hint this entire time. I sure wish somebody would tell me something."
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