Knicking off? Durant in NBA free agency stunner
The race is officially on.
Kevin Durant is an unrestricted free agent, declining his $31.5 million player option to return to the Warriors on Wednesday, ESPN is reporting.
His recruitment could be a showdown between the Knicks and Nets. Durant has spent time in the city since undergoing surgery on June 12 to repair his ruptured Achilles tendon. He is currently there with business manager Rich Kleiman mulling his free-agency future, according to ESPN.
Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant has declined his $31.5M player option and will become an unrestricted free agent, league sources tell ESPN. Durant and his business manager Rich Kleiman are in New York, evaluating free agency options. So far, process has stayed private.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 26, 2019
Durant's brother, Tony, posted a photo on Instagram on Tuesday of Kevin using a scooter to get around the streets of New York City.
As The Post reported, the Knicks are willing to go all-in on Durant despite the injury, planning to offer him the max of four years and $164 million. The Nets are said to be the favourite to land Kyrie Irving, a close friend of Durant's.
The Clippers and Warriors are also believed to be in the mix for the 10-time All-Star and two-time NBA Finals MVP, who will turn 31 in September and is likely to miss all of next season. He could be 32 by the time he's ready to return.
The Warriors can offer Durant more than the other three teams, a five-year, $221 million deal.
Durant has been linked to the Knicks for quite some time. They were believed to be the favorite to land him, with the allure of the Garden, New York City and being the player to lift them to their first title since 1973 the biggest selling points.
They do have $70 million in cap space, but if Irving signs with the Nets, it remains uncertain that the Knicks can pair another star with Durant.
In May, Kleiman said his client was undecided on his future, and that was before the Achilles injury and the Warriors losing to the Raptors in the finals without Durant.
The Knicks are reportedly also keeping their hat in the ring as Toronto champion Kawhi Leonard begins to decide on his future.
When free agency starts the Knicks are expecting to have meetings with Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard before heading to Los Angeles to meet with what are considered second tier free agents. The countdown begins...— Frank Isola (@TheFrankIsola) June 26, 2019
Adrian Wojnarowksi reports although the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Clippers remain favourite to sign Kawhi Leonard, the player's camp is still keeping an eye on how much money the Los Angeles Lakers can free up this summer.
Now that Kevin Durant has declined his player option, here are the projected max contract options he'll be able to choose from this summer. pic.twitter.com/nh4qNSk8wh— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 26, 2019
BOSTON IN BIG PLAY FOR ALL STAR
Boston is certain to lose star guard Kyrie Irving this off-season - but they are ready to snare a star replacement in Kemba Walker, Sky Sports reports.
Marc Stein of the New York Times reports the Boston Celtics "emerged as a stealth suitor" for Walker, presuming, as many observers expect, Kyrie Irving leaves the team in free agency.
Stein later revisited his initial report, saying Boston, along with the Dallas Mavericks, are now at the "front of the line" of teams trying to sign Walker away from the Hornets.
Two NBA sources confirm @TheSteinLine report that Celtics are seriously interested in @KembaWalker. I doubt the Hornets put this thing to bed pre-emptively when free-agency opens June 30. Plenty of suitors, and I assume Kemba will listen to all the pitches.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) June 25, 2019
Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix also reported the Celtics have significant salary cap room up their sleeve and will be a major player in free agency.
BROOKLYN'S KYRIE MOVE THROWN INTO UNCERTAINTY
The New York Post has reported the Nets' dream off-season is pairing Kevin Durant with Kyrie Irving, and sources say that hasn't changed.
The question is if they can't land Durant, do they still want Irving? Especially if they have to lose D'Angelo Russell - their own 23-year-old homegrown All-Star - to get him?
It's a question that has turned into a civil war among the fan base. It also has become an internal debate the Nets are having right now.
The Post has confirmed Brooklyn might have qualms about signing the enigmatic Irving if he isn't bringing the injured Durant with him.
Other teams had already backed off of pursuing Irving with similar concerns over the way things went awry in Boston. If the Nets do the same, it would mean keeping Russell, who is a younger and cheaper option as a restricted free agent.
Brooklyn has almost $68 million in cap room if it renounces Russell, $46 million after his cap hold.
Irving could command a four-year, $141 million deal that starts at $32 million. Durant would get a four-year, $164 million contract that would start at $38 million next season, one that would essentially be a redshirt year. It would also necessitate more moves (like trading Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris or Taurean Prince) to afford Durant and Irving.
JIMMY BUCKETS IN 'WORLD WAR III' TRADE PACKAGE
Philadelphia and Houston are set to go to war this free agency as star shooter Jimmy Butler considers his options.
The Rockets on Thursday morning (AEST) emerged as the leading rival contender to snatch Butler away - and they reportedly have a plan in place to match the Sixers dollar for dollar.
The Rockets have reportedly offered to find a high first-round draft pick for Philadelphia by offering to trade centre Clint Capela, guard Eric Gordon and forward P.J. Tucker to rival teams.
The Rockets then plan to use that first found pick to force the Sixers to offer up Butler.
The Rockets' plan to fore Philadelphia into a trade would allow the team to pressure the Sixers into a "sign-and-trade" deal where Philadelphia would sign Butler to a five-year, $190 million max deal before shipping him off to Houston.
The Sixers have said all along the team is confident of keeping Butler and star forward Tobias Harris this free agency.
Reporting w/ @ZachLowe: Houston’s offering Clint Capela, Eric Gordon and PJ Tucker individually to teams w/ space to absorb salary. Rockets trying for best available first-rounder for any of those three, hoping to redirect pick to Philly in pursuit of Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 26, 2019
Only the Sixers are able to offer Butler the $190m deal, with Houston only able to offer a $140 million, four-year deal, if it attempts to chase Butler through free agency.
A situation where Butler, a famous dominant and demanding character, ends up in the same dressing room as squabbling superstars Chris Paul and James Harden has raised eye brows across the league.
American NBA analyst Chris Broussard told Fox Sports on Thursday the Rockets' dressing room would be World War III with the difficult trio all on the same roster.