Durant opts for Nets as NBA free agent frenzy begins

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Two-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant announced Sunday that he will depart the Golden State Warriors, his team since 2016, for the Brooklyn Nets.

The 30-year-old star forward made his announcement on social media moments after the start of the NBA's free agency period, saying he will sign a maximum-level deal with the Nets.

Durant commands top dollar despite the fact that he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in game five of this year's finals and is expected to miss all of the 2019-20 season.

"Kevin Durant has confirmed he will sign a max deal with the Brooklyn Nets," said a post on the Instagram and Twitter accounts of The Boardroom, his company-owned sports-business network.

A max deal for Durant would be worth some $164 million over four years. The Warriors could have offered him $221 million over five years to stay.

Under NBA rules, teams cannot sign contracts with players until Saturday, but there was still plenty of action in the opening hours of the free agency period.

Multiple US media outlets reported that Boston Celtics playmaker Kyrie Irving would be joining Durant in Brooklyn on a four-year deal worth $141 million.

It could give the Nets a formidable duo once Durant returns from an upcoming year of rehabilitation, provided Durant can regain the form that helped power the Warriors to the 2017 and 2018 NBA crowns.

It was in 2016 at the start of the free agency period when the Warriors, who had just been beaten by Cleveland in the NBA Finals, went to Durant and asked him to join them after the star forward opted to leave Oklahoma City.

Durant had the Warriors looking like champions again this year before a right calf injury sidelined him. Durant missed nine games before returning in game five of the NBA Finals against Toronto. He scored 11 points in 12 minutes before suffering the ruptured tendon that required surgery two days later.

Durant and Irving were both reported to be targets of the New York Knicks -- who were coming off a league-worst 17-65 season and had cleared salary cap space to sign proven talent to join their inexperienced squad.

ESPN reported that Knicks owner James Dolan wasn't prepared to offer Durant a maximum deal because of his injury and the club was reported to have instead agreed to terms with Julius Randle and Taj Gibson.

Randle, 24, averaged 21.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 73 games with the New Orleans Pelicans last season. Gibson, 34, averaged 10.8 points and 6.5 rebounds in 70 games with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

- Walker headed to Boston -

With Irving headed out of Boston, the Celtics were reportedly poised to welcome point guard Kemba Walker -- a three-time All-Star who is coming off one of the best seasons of his career for the Charlotte Hornets with averages of 25.6 points, 5.9 assists and 4.4 rebounds.

Walker was eligible for a five-year, $221.2 million supermax contract offer from the Hornets, but the Charlotte News and Observer reported they only came up with a five-year, $170 million offer.

While the Warriors are saying goodbye to Durant, three-point sharpshooter Klay Thompson was expected to reach terms quickly on a five-year deal worth $190 million to stay with the club.

The future remained unclear for two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who led the Raptors to the title after being traded from the San Antonio Spurs, whom he sparked to the 2014 crown.

The Knicks and the Los Angeles Clippers have long been expected to make high-priced pitches to Leonard, who grew up in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Lakers put themselves in the mix with a salary dump that gives them a maximum salary slot to seek a third star to unite with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who is set to join the Lakers in a deal with New Orleans.

Leonard could opt to stay with Toronto, and the Raptors reportedly have been assured they will be able to make the final presentation to Leonard after other suitors have made their pitches.

The Dallas Mavericks said they had agreed with restricted free agent Kristaps Porzingis on a five-year, $158.253 million maximum salary contract -- which will be the largest contract in the 39-year history of the club in total, as well as by average salary per season and in a single season.

The 23-year-old Latvian big man was acquired by the Mavericks from the Knicks in a blockbuster seven-player trade on January 31.

He was still recovering from surgery to repair a torn left knee ligament and hasn't played since February 6, 2018.