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Tim Duncan exercises player option, could still retire

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Tim Duncan is taking more time before making his final decision but might still return next season.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Duncan exercised his player option for the 2016/17 season but it's still unclear whether or not he intends to return to play for another year, according to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowki.

Duncan was facing a deadline on whether to pick up his player option or opt out, like Manu Ginobili did. He decided to do the former but that doesn't guarantee he will actually return for the 2016/17 season, according to the report. Duncan could still decide to retire at a later time and, if he comes to an agreement with the Spurs, his contract wouldn't count against the salary cap. By doing this, he's simply buying himself some more time to make the decision.

The only thing that is not on the table anymore is Duncan returning for the minimum. Had he opted out, the Spurs could have maximized cap space by renouncing their right to him only to bring him back at a discount. To be fair, that always seemed like a long shot, since he's still worth more than that, but it was in play until tonight.

Now if Duncan doesn't retire he will make $5,643,750, which hurts the Spurs' flexibility when it comes to making a big free agent signing. The Spurs would have $80 million in committed salary after renouncing all free agents and waiving players in non-guaranteed contracts with the cap expected to be set at $94 million. That's well short of max contract room.

The good news is that, while Duncan hasn't made up his mind yet, he seems to at least be considering playing another year. Despite his numbers dropping in almost every category last season, he was still a very good defensive player. There were also still flashes of the old dominant play, which helped the team navigate the regular season. If Duncan feels healthy enough to return, he can still help the Spurs.

Duncan will probably make his final decision sometime next week, when the July moratorium begins, or after July 7, when free agency will officially start.