by Marcel Mutoni

The NBA season kicks off tonight (finally!), and unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, the logical favorite to win the title next June is the defending champion San Antonio Spurs. We might as well pencil them in for the next couple of championships, too.

Tim Duncan has agreed to a two-year extension, and he took less money than he could’ve commanded, freeing up salary cap space for the Spurs to keep stockpiling talent.

The extension, reported to be worth $40 million, also would afford the team with a substantial salary cap cushion with which to woo free agents after the 2010 season. The deal is expected to be finalized later this week.

Under the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, Duncan — a 10-time All-Star — could have commanded a two-year extension worth a maximum $51 million. Duncan has agreed to take $11 million less, freeing up money for the Spurs to rebuild around him after the 2009-10 season, when his current deal was set to expire.

Damn, there must be something in that San Antonio water.

So, let’s see, the Spurs have arguably the best player in the League who’s clearly all about the team, a coach everyone fears and respects (and who never stops trying to find an edge), and a Finals MVP-winning point guard that no defender can stay in front of.

As the old saying goes, the rich keep getting richer.