Manu Ginobili opts out; source says he's expected to rejoin Spurs
3:14 AM CT
Michael C. Wright
ESPN Staff Writer
SAN ANTONIO -- Spurs guard Manu Ginobili declined to pick up his $2.9 million option for the 2016-17 season, league sources confirmed to ESPN.
Ginobili needed to make a decision by Wednesday on his player option, but a source said the veteran would head into free agency as a way to give himself more time to make a decision about his future. The expectation is that he'll return for one more season with the Spurs under a new deal, a source said.
The Vertical first reported the news that Ginobili would opt out of his contract.
A 14-year veteran, Ginobili -- much like he did last summer when he contemplated retirement -- will take a deliberate approach in determining whether to return for a 15th season in San Antonio. Shortly after the team's season-ending loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals, Ginobili took a break from training before setting his sights on the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where he will compete for Argentina.
"I guess in a couple of weeks I'll think more about my future," Ginobili wrote on May 17 in a column for La Nacion, an Argentine newspaper. "Surely I will sit down with Pop [coach Gregg Popovich], Tim [Duncan] and some of my colleagues to chat. Then we will see what the objectives are and whether something will change or not. It is still early to see it. It will not depend on my determination of what my colleagues do or anything. But I want to know what the plan is."
Ginobili signed a two-year contract last summer with a player option for 2016-17 worth $2.9 million. He had something of a resurgence in the early portion of the 2015-16 season, but the veteran suffered a testicular injury in a Feb. 3 win over New Orleans that required surgery. He missed 12 games due to the injury.
Manu Ginobili averaged fewer than 10 points (9.6) last season for the first time since his rookie season (2002-03). Ronald Cortes/Getty Images
Ginobili returned to action on March 2 and lit up the Detroit Pistons for 22 points in helping the Spurs become just the third team in NBA history to start off a season with a 30-0 record at home. Headed into the club's Game 6 loss to Oklahoma City in the Western Conference semifinals, Ginobili, Duncan and Tony Parker had posted 126 career postseason wins together, a mark that registers as the most ever by a trio.
The group also owns the most regular-season victories in NBA history (575), along with four titles.
"Of course, it's been an amazing run," Ginobili said after the team's season-ending loss to Oklahoma City. "We all enjoy playing with each other. I'm so proud of having played with those guys for so many years and winning so many games, and even playing with the new guys. If there's a reason why you always want to come back and keep being part of this, [it's] because of the amazing chemistry, the good times and the good people that you play with and spend time with. It's not always about winning a game or winning a championship. But you learn from losses, and it's important to enjoy every day. Being a part of this team, I'm very proud of it, even if sometimes it doesn't go our way."
Still a highly effective scorer, Ginobili averaged fewer than 10 points (9.6) for the first time since his rookie season (2002-03), while shooting 45.3 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from 3-point range, which was his best long-range shooting percentage since the 2011-12 season.
Popovich joked at the end of the season that Ginobili wouldn't be asking him for advice on whether to return for 2015-16.
"I haven't talked to Timmy in about 11 years, and Manu stopped talking to me about three or four years ago," Popovich said. "So I doubt it highly. They are just going to come in and say, 'Pop, this is what I'm doing.' And then whatever they say, that's what I'll do."