Report: Kevin Durant willing to accept less than max contract next year

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The Warriors will have seven free agents this summer who are in Golden State’s playoff rotation:

And then there’s Kevin Durant, who holds a $27,734,405 player option for next season.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant is willing to take less than the maximum contract extension he is eligible for this summer as a 10-year veteran if it helps the Warriors keep the core of their team intact, league sources told ESPN.

Durant’s projected max salary next season is more than $35 million. But the Warriors would need cap space to pay him more than $31,848,120 (120% of his salary this year, which could be offered through Non-Bird Rights, technically a form of Bird Rights). To get that cap space, they’d have to renounce Iguodala, Livingston and most of their low-paid free agents (where the cap lands would determine exactly how many).

Obviously, Curry isn’t going anywhere. But another product of his relatively low-paying contract extension is a relatively low free agent amount. Golden State can hold him at $18,168,539 until settling all its other business than replace that cap hold with a designated-veteran-player contract projected to be worth $205 million over five years.

Iguodala and Livingston are the big pivot points.

The Warriors have full Bird Rights on both, but the team loses those Bird Rights if the players are renounced to clear cap space for Durant. If Durant opts in (for $27,734,405) or opts out to accept the Non-Bird Exception (much more likely with a starting salary of $31,848,120 and the ability to add extra years), Golden State could re-sign Iguodala and Livingston to any salary up to the max.

Such an arrangement would come with risk for Durant and the Warriors.

If Durant takes a discount next season, he might not lock into a long-term contract with annual raises limited by a low starting salary. He could sign another 1+1 deal and re-sign with Early Bird Rights in 2018, when he’d be eligible for his full max starting salary (projected to be nearly $36 million) and larger raises (8% vs. 4% this year).

Though Durant has expressed nothing but satisfaction with his time in Golden State, every free agency presents an opportunity to leave. He also loses financial security on a short-term contract.

If Durant opts in or opts out to accept the Non-Bird Exception, the Warriors would also maintain Bird Rights for Zaza Pachulia (Non-Bird), Ian Clark (Early Bird), David West (Non-Bird) and JaVale McGee (Non-Bird). Unlike with Iguodala and Livingston, Golden State would still have financial constraints for its Early Bird and Non-Bird players. Their projected maxes for re-signing without cap space:

  • Clark: Projected $6.5 million (must be on contract for 2-4 years, not including option years)
  • Pachulia: $3,477,600
  • West: $2,794,382
  • McGee: $2,540,346

Is that enough to keep any? Pachulia and West have already taken discounts to join the Warriors. McGee has found a team that maximizes his value, and other teams might be skeptical of what he could do for them. Clark is a wild card.

But even such a strong possibility of keeping the core of a championship contender – maybe champion – is such a boon. It’s in Durant’s hands now.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.