Doc Rivers: Tim Duncan Said He'd Sign with Magic as Free Agent in 2000

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMay 19, 2020

San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Tim Duncan looks on during practice before the start of their NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

The course of NBA history could have been forever changed in 2000 when the Orlando Magic believed they were going to sign Tim Duncan

Speaking to TNT's Ernie Johnson on NBA Together, then-Magic head coach Doc Rivers said Duncan told him he was "pretty sure that I'm actually coming to" Orlando as a free agent, but the center wanted to give the San Antonio Spurs the courtesy of a final meeting (starting at 24:30). 


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There have been a number of stories over the years about what happened with the Magic that ultimately led to Duncan re-signing with San Antonio. 

Grant Hill said on ESPN's The Jump in 2018 that Duncan didn't want to join Orlando because of Rivers' rule about spouses not being allowed on the team plane: "Someone in Tim's entourage asked Doc, 'Can significant others travel on the plane?' And Doc said 'no.'"

Rivers cleared up the confusion around that by telling Johnson "the story is not told correctly" because "I told (Tim) that families can fly every once in a while."

In a 2010 article on NBA.com (h/t CBS Sports' Matt Moore), Duncan said he "came close to leaving" the Spurs for Orlando. 

"It was hell," Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said in the article. "You get close to a player and you don't want to see him leave. I never let myself believe he was going to stay. I was just getting myself prepared, for sanity reasons. It's no fun."

Duncan had a six-year, $67.5 million offer from Orlando but turned it down to re-sign with San Antonio for $32.6 million over three years.

The Spurs went on to win four championships after Duncan's free-agency saga in 2000 and have been a model of consistency for two decades. 

The Magic have had intermittent success over the past two decades, including reaching the NBA Finals in 2009, but the franchise is still chasing its first championship.