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Duncan Staying With Spurs

Tim Duncan, the biggest prize in this year's NBA free-agent pool, will remain with the San Antonio Spurs, spurning an offer to play with the Orlando Magic.

"Orlando had a lot to offer. I went down there and had a good time. When it came down to it, I just liked what I had here," Duncan said today at a news conference.

Duncan believes the Spurs can challenge the Los Angeles Lakers for next year's title. The Spurs won in 1998-99.

"We have a great opportunity with myself, and David (Robinson) at the core of the whole thing and the fact that we have won it before."

If Duncan had joined the Magic, he would have played with Grant Hill, the five-time all-star who is joining Orlando from Detroit.

The Magic offered Duncan a six-year contract worth $67.5 million.

Duncan could sign a seven-year deal worth $86.5 million if he re-signs with San Antonio, although he is considered more likely to sign a shorter deal. Duncan can not officially sign a contract with the team until Aug. 1.

Lon Babby, Duncan's agent, said he was happy that Duncan decided early.

"He's got to this point. Now, I have a lot of work to do," Babby said, referring to the deal he has to craft with the team. Neither would say if they would ask for a long- or short-term deal with the Spurs.

Duncan said he felt relieved.

"It was rather annoying," he said about the attention. "I'm glad the process is over and people will stop following me."

Helicopters flew overhead when he visited Orlando, and he'd been followed by media prior to his decision.

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."

The news was a relief for Spurs fans, who pleaded for his return to the team he guided to the 1999 NBA title. Fans dotted the community in recent weeks with billboards and placards reading: "Stay Tim, Stay!"

Duncan was the Most Valuable Player for the championship series.

The 24-year-old Duncan is 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 without one of the game's superstars.

Orlando pushed hard to sign both Duncan and Hill, who has said he will sign with the Magic on Friday. 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 excutives.

Duncan even met Tiger Woods, who lives nearby.

The Magic 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.

But the Spurs applied their own pressure. Robinson, who along with Duncan gives San Antonio the most formidable front-line duo in the league, returned early from a Hawaii vacation to persuade Duncan to stay.

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