Kevin Durant created fireworks in the Bay Area, Oklahoma City and all around the NBA on Fourth of July morning, announcing on The Players Tribune that he will sign with the Golden State Warriors.
Durant couldn’t beat the Warriors, so he joined Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, forming what could become the most dominant team in NBA history.
The Warriors, who beat the Thunder in seven games in the Western Conference finals, were considered the lone team that Durant would leave Oklahoma City for, but it was a stunning move nonetheless.
Durant, a former MVP and four-time scoring champion, was drafted by Seattle in 2007 and has been with the Oklahoma City organization his entire career. But he’s still seeking an NBA title, and he said getting out of his “comfort zone” is one of the main reasons he’s joining the Warriors.
Durant, 27, reportedly will sign a two-year, $54-million deal with Golden State. The second year is a player option.
In a letter on The Players Tribune entitled “My Next Chapter,” Durant wrote: “I am at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth. With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors.”
Durant met with the Warriors, Thunder, Celtics, Spurs, Clippers and Heat over the weekend in the Hamptons. The Knicks couldn’t get a meeting with Durant, but his decision could affect them in the future.
Russell Westbrook, a free agent next season, has been linked to the Knicks. With Durant gone, Westbrook also could look to bolt Oklahoma City. The Knicks just acquired Derrick Rose, but he’s under contract only for this season. If things don’t work out, they again could be looking for a point guard.
“It really pains me to know that I will disappoint so many people with this choice,” Durant wrote. “But I believe I am doing what I feel is the right thing at this point in my life and my playing career.”
Warriors special adviser Jerry West reportedly called Durant on Sunday and pitched him on the benefits of joining Golden State.
Durant is essentially doing what LeBron James did six years ago when he left Cleveland for Miami. It didn’t take long for Durant to experience the same kind of backlash that James received for his decision, as Twitter heated up with criticism.
James, who felt he had taken the Cavaliers as far as he could, joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to form a super-team in Miami. The Heat went to four straight Finals and won two titles.
The Warriors already were a super-team. They won the 2015 NBA championship and an NBA-record 73 regular-season games this past season without Durant. With him, they could steamroll the NBA and win multiple championships.
That’s what’s missing from Durant’s career. He made only one NBA Finals appearance, losing to James and the Heat in 2012.
The Thunder was within one good quarter of reaching the NBA Finals this season, but it blew a 3-1 lead over the Warriors and lost the series. In the Finals, Golden State had the same thing happen, squandering a 3-1 advantage and losing to James’ Cavaliers.
To make room for Durant, the Warriors are expected to renounce restricted free agent Harrison Barnes’ rights, which would make him an unrestricted free agent. Barnes reportedly had agreed with the Mavericks on an offer sheet for a four-year deal. Warriors teammate Andrew Bogut reportedly also is headed to Dallas as part of a trade. The moves will help Golden State clear salary-cap space for Durant’s contract.
While it was Christmas in July for the Warriors, this is a devastating day for the Thunder, a small-market team that built a contender through the draft and to this point held on to its biggest stars. It might be more difficult to do that now.
“Kevin made an indelible mark on the Thunder organization and the state of Oklahoma as a founding father of this franchise,” executive vice president and general manager Sam Presti said in a statement. “We can’t adequately articulate what he meant to the foundation of this franchise and our success.
“While clearly disappointing that he has chosen to move on, the core values that he helped establish only lead to us thanking him for the many tangible and intangible ways that he helped our program.”
Lots of shots
The Warriors now have a Big 4 like no other in the NBA, with Kevin Durant joining Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. But there’s still only one ball, likely meaning some players will see fewer shots and score fewer points.
Points Per Game
2015-16 Warriors: 114.9
NBA Average: 102.7
Big 4 total: 94.4
Field Goal Attempts Per Game
2015-16 Warriors: 87.3
NBA Average: 84.6
Big 4 total: 66.8