June 30, 2019 - 4:19 pm
Updated June 30, 2019 - 8:08 pm
NEW YORK — Kevin Durant is headed to the Brooklyn Nets, leaving the Golden State Warriors after three seasons.
His decision was announced Sunday at the start of the NBA free agency period on the Instagram page for The Boardroom, an online series looking at sports business produced by Durant and business partner Rich Kleiman.
Durant won titles with Golden State in 2017 and ‘18 then was injured for much of the postseason this year as the team lost the NBA Finals in six games to the Toronto Raptors.
A ruptured right Achilles tendon could keep him out the entire next season, and whenever he returns it will be in the Brooklyn black.
ESPN first reported Durant’s decision, saying he had agreed to a four-year deal worth $164 million. Durant could have gotten five years and about $221 million to remain with the Warriors.
Durant, a 10-time All-Star who just completed his 12th NBA season, was leading all postseason scorers at 34.2 points per game when he strained his right calf on May 8 in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Rockets. He had seven 30-point performances during the recent playoffs.
It’s unclear how he will play whenever he can return, but the Nets were willing to take a chance with a team on the rise.
Brooklyn finished 42-40 this season and lost in the first round of the playoffs, then got a huge victory Sunday when it beat out the Warriors, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers for Durant.
Durant, who grew up in the Washington area and spent one college season at Texas, played his first year with the Seattle SuperSonics before they departed for Oklahoma City, where Durant played eight seasons with the Thunder before joining the Warriors in 2016.
He was heavily criticized for that move, seen as taking an easy route by joining a team that had just won an NBA-record 73 games. But it worked out for Durant and the Warriors, as he was the NBA Finals MVP in their championships in both 2017 and 2018.
This season was filled with talk of his future — sometimes to Durant’s annoyance — though for much of the season it was focused on the Knicks if he decided to leave. But the Nets became a more attractive option with young talent that should help them be competitive next season even while Durant recovers.
The Warriors will have to move on without Durant, who had three games with 45 or more points in the postseason before getting hurt. They still have Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and were expected to re-sign Klay Thompson, though he will miss much or all of next season after tearing an ACL in the NBA Finals.
The bigger disappointment may be for the Knicks, who had cleared enough money to sign two maximum salary free agents when they traded Kristaps Porzingis during the season. The hope was that Durant would be one of them, but instead he will end up a few miles across the river with a team that could be poised to be the dominant team in the city for years.
In other NBA free agency news:
Free agency opened Sunday with more than $2 billion in deals getting struck in the opening hours — and that’s even without Kyrie Irving officially joining Brooklyn, as has been expected, or any word from Kawhi Leonard about his future plans to either stay with NBA champion Toronto or move elsewhere.
Damian Lillard agreed to a $196 million, four-year extension with Portland that will kick in for the 2021-22 season. Harris is staying in Philadelphia for $180 million over the next five years and Middleton gave Milwaukee a bit of a discount in agreeing to a $178 million, five-year deal — $12 million shy of what he could have commanded.
Even injuries couldn’t derail the spending.
Kevin Durant announced that he’s leaving Golden State and joining Brooklyn on a $164 million, four-year deal — even though he’ll miss next season with an Achilles injury and could have gotten $221 million for five years from the Warriors. And Kristaps Porzingis, who hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since Feb. 6, 2018 because of a knee injury, will sign a $158 million, five-year contract to stay with Dallas.
All deals were confirmed to The Associated Press by people with knowledge of the agreements, all speaking on condition of anonymity because the NBA moratorium prevents new contracts from being signed until noon Eastern time on Saturday.
“From the trade to the Sixers in February, through the regular season and playoffs and now on to free agency, this contract is a culmination of so much in my life and basketball career,” Harris wrote in an essay published on ESPN.com. “It’s also a new beginning.”
There were a lot of new beginnings Sunday.
Jimmy Butler agreed to a four-year, $142 million deal that will send him to Miami. Butler — a close friend of retired Miami guard Dwyane Wade — made clear to the Heat that he wanted to be in Miami, and over the next three hours the basic framework of a trade was worked out. Miami is sending Josh Richardson to Philadelphia and was still working on a package to Dallas to make the Butler move happen. Goran Dragic was considered at one time for inclusion in that trade, though by night’s end he was still with Miami and the Mavs and Heat were still working through options.
Irving and Leonard remained on the market, at least technically in Irving’s case, after the initial flurry of free agency — and even with their deals still not closed, nine players agreed to contracts that will be worth $100 million or more. Lillard, Harris, Middleton, Durant, Porzingis, Butler, Kemba Walker ($141 million, four-year deal with Boston), Al Horford ($109 million, four years from Philadelphia) and Nikola Vucevic ($100 million, four years with Orlando) were the big early winners, with more likely to come.
The 76ers moved quickly to add Horford, once the parameters of the Butler trade to Miami were complete.
Point guards did particularly well, and will likely keep doing well.
Lillard, Irving (when he gets his $141 million for four years from Brooklyn, as expected) and Walker guaranteed themselves nearly a half-billion dollars. Terry Rozier left Boston for Charlotte — essentially the swap for Walker — on what will be a $58 million, three-year deal that will be completed via trade. Ricky Rubio also cashed in, getting $51 million for three years from the Phoenix Suns and restricted free agent D’Angelo Russell was believed to be a target for both Minnesota and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Meanwhile, the Leonard watch continued with no hints from his camp. The NBA Finals MVP and now two-time champion will meet with the Raptors in the coming days, Toronto coach Nick Nurse said.
Nurse didn’t say where the Raptors will be seeing Leonard, but said the NBA champs believe they “have a really good chance” to keep him.
“I think he had a tremendous year,” Nurse said at an event in Jefferson, Iowa, near his hometown. “I think it’s a great place. You guys can see our fans and ownership is great. Our front office leadership is great, his teammates. You know, everything went well for him to re-sign. And probably mostly, on top of that, would be his health. He was a guy that missed a whole season, and he had a good, healthy year and played his best basketball in the playoffs.”
In other key deals Sunday:
— Indiana is set to acquire 2017 rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon from Milwaukee and sign the shooting guard to a four-year, $85 million deal.
— Harrison Barnes, as expected, is remaining in Sacramento on what will be a four-year, $85 million contract.
— The Pacers lost forward Bojan Bogdanovic to the Utah Jazz, which agreed to pay the forward $73.1 million over the next four years.
— New York, with Knicks fans hoping for a shot at Durant, is signing Julius Randle to a $63 million deal.
— Former NBA MVP Derrick Rose will sign a two-year, $15 million contract with the Detroit Pistons.
— San Antonio kept Rudy Gay on a two-year, $32 million deal, and added veteran forward DeMarre Carroll on a two-year, $12 million deal.
AP Sports Writers Janie McCauley and Luke Meredith contributed to this report.