Updated 3:05: Kevin Durant has officially announced his deal on Instagram
Kevin Durant has decided to sign with the Brooklyn Nets, according to multiple reports on Sunday, ahead of the start of NBA free agency.
Durant — who declined his player option with the Golden State Warriors earlier this month — will reportedly agree to sign a max deal with the Nets, along with close friends Kyrie Irving, with DeAndre Jordan also joining up (per the New York Times’ Marc Stein), when free agency begins at 3 p.m. Pacific. The deals cannot be made official until July 6.
Durant made his announcement shortly after the free agency period opened on his company-owned sports business network, The Boardroom, broadcast on Instagram.
Once free agency opened, Warriors general manager Bob Myers and guard Stephen Curry were expected to meet with Durant and his business manager Rich Kleiman in New York City, with injured guard Klay Thompson joining via FaceTime, but the exact time that meeting was supposed to take place was unclear.
Because Durant made his decision so early in the process (when he signed with Golden State three years go, he announced on July 4), Golden State can now proceed on to its contingency plans. the first order of business will be inking Thompson to a max contract worth $190 million, which Golden State is expected to do.
Multiple reports stated that the Myers had planned on offering Durant, the two-time NBA Finals MVP, a five-year max deal worth $221 million — terms only Golden State could offer as his current team. Durant can only sign a four-year deal worth $164 million with the Nets, per NBA salary cap rules.
In Durant’s three years with the Warriors, they won two NBA titles in three trips to the Finals. As part of the Hamptons Five lineup composed of the players who helped recruit Durant during the summer of 2016, he was part of one of the most efficient and indefensible lineups in league history.
A ruthlessly efficient and complete scorer, Durant shot 52.4% from the field in his three years with Golden State — the best stretch of his career — and 38.4% from 3-point range, with an effective field goal percentage of 58.6%. He averaged 7.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.5 blocks and 25.8 points per game as part of an offense where, for the first time in his career, he didn’t have to be the centerpiece.
Durant’s final year in Oakland, though, was tumultuous. Between a tiff with media and persistent rumors surrounding his pending free agency reportedly creating locker room strife, the sensitive and private Durant more and more sought to control his own narrative. That got more and more out of his control as speculation about his future multiplied and his silence grew.
After Durant went down with a calf injury in Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference Semifinals, Golden State was able to close out the Houston Rockets and then sweep the Portland Trail Blazers in the conference finals, stoking the narrative that Golden State could win without Durant. After consultations with both the Warriors’ medical staff and his own outside medical professionals, Durant, after missing ninei games, returned to the floor for 12 minutes in Game 5 of the NBA Finals and tore his right Achilles, throwing his future into doubt and reportedly sewing resentment on Durant’s part.
The day after he was injured, Durant flew to New York to have his Achilles examined by Dr. Martin O’Malley — the Nets’ team physician, but also the surgeon who operated on his foot in 2015. He was reportedly set to take free agent meetings with Golden State, the Knicks and the Nets in New York before news leaked early Sunday afternoon about his announcement.
Where does Golden State go from here? The departure of Durant does not mean that the Warriors now have available the $38.15 million they would have paid him on a max deal this coming season (35% of the $109 million payroll). Because they are deep in the luxury tax — and a repeater — they only have the taxpayer mid-level exception of $5.718 million available.
Rudy Gay, one of the Warriors’ top options to replace Durant — who would not have been able to play this season as he rehabs a torn right Achilles — has reportedly agreed to sign with the San Antonio Spurs on a two-year, $32 million deal.
Another mid-level candidate, Trevor Ariza, has agreed to a two-year, $25 million deal with the Sacramento Kings, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
Other possibilities include Seth Curry, if he’s willing to be in his brother’s shadow, along with players like DeMarre Carroll and Austin Rivers, whose sister Callie is married to Seth.