Kevin Durant, his leg cast, and his business manager Rich Kleiman are in a virtual bunker in New York, plotting out the superstar’s next move.
The only official news out of that bunker: Durant is opting out of the $31.5 million final year of his contract with the Warriors. Which made headlines but was not a surprise, there are 6.7 million reasons he would do that even if he were staying in the Bay Area.
Aside from that, there is no news. Complete radio silence. That’s something reported in a number of places, including by Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Durant has given his top four suitors — the Warriors, Nets, Knicks and Clippers — no indication of where he plans to sign, according to league sources. Now that he has declined his $31.5 million player option with Golden State, Durant is preparing to mull over his choices with his business manager, Rich Kleiman, in New York.
There is no timetable for a decision. What is known is that, after nine months of being recruited through the media by various teams, Durant is intent on not being swayed by boardroom pitches.
Durant may well not take meetings and just make his decision, or only meet with the team where he plans to sign, as LeBron James did last summer.
“I’m going to just be honest with you: my sense is that the Warriors are in a scramble mode to do anything that they can to either keep Kevin or not lose him for nothing.
“The last thing that the Warriors want is for him to just go sign with the Nets, or sign with the Knicks. So in addition to offering him the five-year contract and hoping he will either stay with them, or be willing to rehab with them and then be traded. The Warriors are wide open to considering sign-and-trade scenarios.
“Let’s say Kevin wants to go to the Nets. They would love to do a sign-and-trade with the Nets. You might say what would they get back? They could get back a trade exception where you would get a $35 million, basically gift certificate that they could then use to go get other players, which they’re going to need. They have no functional way to improve their team because they won’t have salary cap space if he leaves. The Warriors really want to work alongside Kevin Durant.”
The Warriors can offer Durant a five-year, $220 million contract, any other team can only offer four years, $164 million.
As Windhorst said later, there is no real motivation here for the Nets (or Knicks, Clippers, or anyone else) to play along here. The Warriors would likely ask for a future draft pick in the deal, why would a team give that up when they can just sign Durant outright?
The only hope here is Durant wants that guaranteed fifth year enough — and he is rehabbing from a torn Achilles — decides he wants that guaranteed fifth year (and the larger raises) so much he forces the Nets or whoever to do it.
If Durant were signed and traded on July 6, he can only do it for the four-years, $164 million, under the terms of the new CBA. Durant would have to sign the deal and stay with the Warriors for six months minimum, then be traded (think Blake Griffin and the Clippers, although that was not planned in advance). Since Durant is rehabbing his Achilles in that window anyway, it doesn’t really matter. However, if the move is a transparent attempt to circumvent the salary cap with a pre-arranged deal, the league office could step in. It could be done, but the timing and circumstances would need to be right not to run afoul of the league office.
Most likely, Durant just signs wherever he wants to play in the future, it’s on the Warriors to change his mind.