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Kevin Durant declines $31.5 million player option with Warriors, report says

Warriors forward Kevin Durant controls the ball against

Warriors forward Kevin Durant controls the ball against the Nets at Barclays Center on Oct. 28, 2018. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Kevin Durant took the first official step into the unknown of the free-agent market Wednesday when, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, he declined the $31.5 million player option on his contract with the Warriors.

It was hardly a surprise that Durant would opt out and enter free agency, a decision that would have been likely before he suffered a ruptured Achilles in the NBA Finals and became the only sensible option once he did get hurt.

With uncertainty surrounding what he will be after likely missing the entire 2019-20 season, Durant still is expected to be offered full max-salary contracts both by the Warriors to remain with Golden State and by a number of teams interested in his services, including the Knicks and Nets.

That would mean that Durant, who will turn 30 on Sept. 29, would be eligible for a five-year, $221 million contract from the Warriors and a four-year, $164 million deal from any other team with the cap space to fit him in. The Knicks are expected to attempt to recruit Durant despite knowing that they would be without him next season, and would be willing to pay the full price if they are comfortable with the medical reports after surgery was performed earlier this month at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York by Nets team doctor Martin O’Malley.

While Durant could have taken the $31.5 million option and then signed a max deal next summer after rehabilitating, he would jump to an average annual salary of $41 million on a deal from another team and $44.3 million from the Warriors by signing this summer. The real risk for Durant in taking the one-year option gamble would be if he had a setback over the next year — a worst-case scenario reinjuring the Achilles, for example — he could be left with no contract next summer.

The Knicks were believed to be the front-runner for Durant earlier this season after trading away Kristaps Porzingis in a deal that opened up enough cap space to pursue two max-salary-slot free agents. Garden chairman James Dolan spoke openly in a radio interview about his optimism that stars were coming, noting that the team had been told by players and their representatives that they were on their way.

The injury has put those plans in limbo, though, as Durant must decide on his best course of action. He suffered a strained calf muscle in the Western Conference semifinals and then returned to action in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, lasting just minutes into the second quarter when he suffered the Achilles injury.

Marc Gasol accepts 1-year player option. Toronto Raptors center Marc Gasol accepted a one-year player option Wednesday for next season.

The value is approximately $25.6 million, marking the final year of a five-year contract Gasol signed with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2015. Had the 34-year-old Spaniard not accepted before Thursday, he would have become a free agent on Sunday.

Raptors star Kawhi Leonard also has a one-year player option on his deal with a deadline for a decision Saturday, but he is expected to turn it down and become a free agent Sunday after leading Toronto to its first NBA title. Guard Danny Green is the other Raptors regular slated to become a free agent.

The Raptors acquired Gasol from the Grizzlies in February.

Gasol averaged 13.6 points and 7.9 rebounds in 79 regular-season games with the Raptors and Memphis this season. He averaged 9.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in 24 playoff games.

—AP

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