San Antonio Spurs swingman Michael Finley notified the team Tuesday that he will bypass the opportunity to become a free agent July 1 and play out the final season of his contract with the newly crowned champions.
Finley had until Saturday to forfeit next season's $3.1 million salary and return to the open market, but called his decision a "no-brainer."
"I originally signed for three years, with the last year being an option [year] if I didn't enjoy it here," Finley told ESPN.com. "I like it here."
Although Finley, 34, conceivably could have opted out to seek a longer contract with the Spurs, he still has one guaranteed season left on his Mavericks contract valued at $18.6 million.
The Mavs released Finley in August 2005 with three years and nearly $52 million left on that contract to take advantage of the league's one-time "amnesty" provision. That enabled Dallas, by waiving its former face of their franchise, to save nearly $52 million in luxury-tax payments.
Finley admittedly struggled in his first season to make the short hop to San Antonio, as much with the psychological adjustment involved in moving from the Mavericks to their bitter rivals from South Texas as anything. But he gradually found a niche after choosing the Spurs over Phoenix and Miami and was an undeniable factor in the playoffs, emerging as one of the Spurs' most effective players in a seven-game classic with his old team in 2006's second round in which Dallas finally toppled San Antonio.
"Losing like that brought us closer together," Finley said recently. "It gave me something in common with those other [Spurs veterans]."
This season was much smoother as a result. Finley moved into the starting lineup late in the season -- into the spot vacated when Gregg Popovich asked Manu Ginobili to return to his old sixth-man role -- and eventually embraced repeated pleas from his coach to shoot more often as opposed to trying to fit in.
He finished fourth in playoff scoring for the Spurs at 11.3 points per game, shooting 41.9 percent from 3-point range and nearly 90 percent from the line in 26.9 minutes. The highlight: Finley drained a franchise-playoff-record eight 3-pointers in a first-round victory over Denver that closed the Nuggets out in five games.
"[Finley is] almost too professional of a player," Popovich said earlier this month. "He wants to please his coaches so badly that he's just too hard on himself at times. I think that he's learned with some humor and some discussion that it really is easier to play well if one can let go of a turnover or a missed shot and just go play, because the consequences aren't very huge. We're all going to get up in the morning like everybody else on the planet and conduct real life, so I think that's all helped him."
"He's even more of a leader than I thought he would be," Popovich said. "He's more vocal than I thought he would be. And he commands even more respect than I thought he would. He's really a remarkable individual."
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.