How will Kevin Durant’s injury impact free agency? Is it too soon to ask?

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It feels cold and callous to even talk about this right now.

Later tonight or early tomorrow morning the Warriors will receive and release the results of the MRI on Kevin Durant‘s right Achilles, but the team expects — as does anyone who watched it happen — that it will confirm a tear. It’s a career-threatening injury that may sideline Durant all of next season and could change the player he is down the line. It has cast a shadow over these NBA Finals.

Knowing that, talking about Durant and free agency — something that 24 hours ago was one of the biggest stories in the NBA — seems shallow.

Yet the grind of NBA free agency never stops. It will come on July 1, and Durant will have decisions to make then injury or not.

Durant’s injury is not going to change the marketplace much for him, the real question is, does it change his mindset?

Durant has a $31.5 million option for next season, something he has been a lock to opt out of no matter where he decided to play next season. His new starting salary — again, no matter where he plays — will be an estimated $38.2 million next season, meaning to opt-in he would give up $6.7 million. That’s not happening.

Meaning, expect Durant to still be a free agent.

Will other teams back off their pursuit of Durant? Don’t bet on it. Durant is one of a handful of true franchise cornerstone, “we can win a title with him as our best player” guys in the NBA, and if the cost of getting him is to pay for a year without his services, teams will be okay with that. The Knicks, Clippers, Nets, and everyone else will have that mindset.

Don’t take my word for it, here is what ESPN’s Bobby Marks — the former Nets front office man who is the network’s cap guy and front office insider — said this morning on Get Up after he talked to teams. (Hat tip Bleacher Report.)

“I said … If you had cap space, would you go out and sign Kevin Durant knowing that he will likely be out maybe the whole year? And the resounding answer was ‘yes.’ Each of the teams also said that they wouldn’t even put any injury language in there for maybe years three and four to protect. So, yes, there will be a marketplace for Kevin Durant this summer, either with a team for four years, $141 million dollars or even back in Golden State here.”

The bigger question is the true unknown: How will the injury change Durant’s mindset? Or will it?

His manager said before the injury Durant had not made up his mind on his summer plans yet, and I believe that, but you can bet he had a lean. Around NBA front office circles, it was assumed he was going to bolt the Warriors to lead his own team somewhere else, the question was where. Now, it’s a legitimate question to ask, “does he even want to leave?” Will Durant sign a 1+1 deal to stay in Golden State, where he is comfortable, and see if he can be back to help this team in the playoffs next season?

I doubt Durant knows, or has even thought about this yet. It’s going to take time to process his feelings on the injury and his future, let alone come to any kind of decision.

But what he chooses will impact so many other moves. Teams were lining up to trade for Anthony Davis in hopes of using him to convince Durant to come there, now do those teams still throw as much into offers? You can be sure the teams that were targeting Durant are upping their efforts to go after other potential free agents such as Jimmy Butler or Kemba Walker (those guys may stay with the Sixers and Hornets, respectively, if they get five-year max offers from their teams).

The playing field has changed… but nobody is exactly sure how yet.

And everyone is going to give Durant all the space he needs to make his decision about what he wants now.

Joseph Tsai to buy rest of Nets, Barclays Arena for $3.4 billion

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NEW YORK — Joe Tsai has agreed to buy the remaining 51 percent of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center from Mikhail Prokhorov in deals that two people with knowledge of the details say are worth about $3.4 billion.

Terms were not disclosed Friday, but the people told The Associated Press that Tsai is paying about $2.35 billion for the Nets – a record for a U.S. pro sports franchise – and nearly $1 billion in a separate transaction for the arena. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the transactions have not yet been completed.

Tsai is the co-founder and executive vice president of the Alibaba Group, the Chinese e-commerce giant. He already had purchased a 49 percent stake in the team from Prokhorov in 2018, with the option to become controlling owner in four years.

Instead, he pushed up that timeline for full ownership of a team on the rise after signing superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in July.

Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire, became the NBA’s first non-North American owner in 2010 and oversaw the Nets’ move from New Jersey to Brooklyn two years later. He spent big in the first couple years after the move in a quest to chase a championship, but the team soon became one of the worst in the NBA before rallying to return to the playoffs last season.

“It has been an honor and a joy to open Barclays Center, bring the Nets to Brooklyn, and watch them grow strong roots in the community while cultivating global appeal,” Prokhorov said in a statement. “The team is in a better place today than ever before and I know that Joe will build on that success, while continuing to deliver the guest experience at Barclays Center that our fans, employees, and colleagues in the industry enjoy.”

The deal is expected to be completed by the end of September and is subject to approval by the NBA’s Board of Governors.

That would put Tsai, a native of Taiwan, in full control of the team by the time the Nets head to China to play two exhibition games against the Los Angeles Lakers in October. That comes at the start of a season of renewed excitement for the Nets, who just three seasons ago won an NBA-worst 20 games but are set to make a big move up the standings after landing two of the best players on the market when free agency opened.

“I’ve had the opportunity to witness up close the Brooklyn Nets rebuild that Mikhail started a few years ago. He hired a front office and coaching staff focused on player development, he supported the organization with all his resources, and he refused to tank,” Tsai said. “I will be the beneficiary of Mikhail’s vision, which put the Nets in a great position to compete, and for which I am incredibly grateful.”

Brett Yormark, the CEO of BSE Global, which manages the team and the arena, will oversee the transition before leaving for a new role.

Jazz coach Quin Snyder tells Donovan Mitchell to ‘be a sponge’ around Gregg Popovich

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While other players continue to pull out of the USA Basketball roster — De'Aaron Fox was the latest, and P.J. Tucker before him — Utah’s Donovan Mitchell has been outspoken in his commitment to the team.

“Me, I’m 22, some guys are older and got to rest their bodies and I understand that…” Mitchell said Friday night after Team USA’s exhibition game win over Spain. “For me, I’ve never been part of USA Basketball and I’m honored to be here, I’m honored to have this privilege to go out and compete.”

A lot of players have left — or just not put their names in the hat in the first place — saying they wanted to focus on preparing for the regular season, especially players in the Western Conference, which is deep with outstanding teams. The Utah Jazz, now with Mike Conley at the point, are one of those teams with high expectations.

Mitchell, however, has the full backing of his coach Quin Snyder to stay with Team USA and learn from Gregg Popovich, as Snyder told Marc Stein of the New York Times.

“Both Donovan and I have been excited for this opportunity, not just the chance to compete for his country but to play for Pop. I think he has an appreciation for the fact that he’s playing for the greatest coach that’s ever coached…

“Just try to throw yourself completely into it,” Snyder said he told Mitchell. “And try to communicate with Coach as much as you can. Be a sponge.”

Popovich has had an impact on the young players on the roster. For example, there’s more maturity to Kyle Kuzma‘s game, and Popovich recognized him on the court Friday night when Kuzma made a couple of smart plays against Spain.

Just having different coaching voices — not just Popovich but his assistants Steve Kerr, Lloyd Pierce, and Villanova’s Jay Wright — can help a young player. The message may be consistent, but said in a different way, one that better gets through to the player. Styles matter.

Mitchell led Team USA in scoring against Spain with 13, but Snyder and Jazz fans are hoping for more. Not just gold at the World Cup in China starting Sept. 1, but that Mitchell comes back energized and with a broadened game after having been a sponge next to Popovich.

Marcus Smart reportedly cleared to play for Team USA

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Through two weeks of training camp, first in Las Vegas then in Los Angeles, through one intrasquad scrimmage and one exhibition game, Marcus Smart has sat in street clothes.

The Celtics guard has a calf injury that has sidelined him. On Thursday in Los Angeles he took part in the shooting parts of practice during training camp, but not the full-contact scrimmages against the select team. All he could really do was this.

Friday night he never got out of his warmups and did not play against Spain, but he did say on the broadcast he would be back.

Turns out, he was cleared to be back the next day according to Mark Stein of the New York Times.

This takes away a little of the sting of De'Aaron Fox deciding to withdraw from the team just before it left on Saturday for Australia.

It also means four Celtics are on the USA roster: Smart, Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown. USA assistant coach Steve Kerr jokingly said to me last week he asked Brad Stevens for a thank you gift for running Celtics mini-camp.

Smart is one of the 13 players headed down under for a series of tune-up games before the World Cup (against Australia and Canada). If he’s fully healthy enough to go, Smart is a lock to make the roster because of his physical perimeter defense and ability to shoot the three (36 percent last season in the NBA, and the international line is a little closer in). He likely would come off the bench at the two behind Donovan Mitchell.

Bill Walton broadcast White Sox vs. Angels game and was nothing short of brilliant

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Bill Walton is brilliant.

The Hall of Fame hippie and big man was in the broadcast booth Friday night — not for basketball, but for the White Sox vs. Angels MLB game. Walton loves baseball even if his understanding of the sport is… unconventional.

I want Bill Walton to narrate my life.

The world missed him while he battled serious back issues, it’s so good to have him out and around and being himself again.