Kevin Durant is staying with the NBA champions.
LeBron James might be moving much closer to them.
Durant has decided to sign a two-year deal with the Golden State Warriors, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Saturday because the deal cannot become official until the league’s offseason moratorium ends on Friday. The deal comes with a player option for 2019-20, so Durant can — and likely will — become a free agent again next summer.
It’s a win on multiple levels for the two-time defending NBA champion Warriors. Not only do they get to keep the 2017 and 2018 NBA Finals MVP, but they also get some financial flexibility in the deal.
Durant will be paid about $30.5 million this coming season, about $5 million less than he could have commanded if the deal was structured differently. That savings will give Golden State options for other moves this summer, as the Warriors look to bolster their bench for a run at what could be a fourth title in a five-year span.
The New York Times first reported Durant’s intention to sign the deal.
Meanwhile, James created a frenzy on Saturday without saying a word.
James spent the week vacationing in Anguilla, and hopped aboard a private Gulfstream jet in the morning to fly to the Los Angeles area. By the time he arrived around midday — after his flight plan was tracked online — reporters and at least one news helicopter were waiting for the Cleveland Cavaliers star, who decided to become an unrestricted free agent and not opt-in to a $35.6 million deal for this coming season.
The Lakers have long been mentioned as a top destination for James, and they have more salary cap space this summer than any team in the NBA. But going to L.A. on Saturday doesn’t necessarily provide any hint about his team for next season, since James has homes in Southern California.
But if James is going to be the next superstar to follow in the legacy that Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson built for the Lakers, it’s already fairly evident that not everyone in the NBA will be thrilled by the development.
“The Lakers are FOREVER gonna be Kobe’s and Magic’s team.... Process that,” Philadelphia star Joel Embiid wrote on Twitter.
Philadelphia has been one of the teams often mentioned as a club that would pursue James this summer, and that still may be the case.
Durant, James, Paul George and Chris Paul are among the biggest names hitting free agency this weekend. Teams are allowed to begin negotiating with players once 12:01 a.m. EDT Sunday arrives, though the Warriors had already said Durant would get whatever he wanted.
For many teams, squeezing moves in a year where most franchises don’t have cap space will be quite an arduous process. The NBA released the official cap and tax numbers for the coming season on Saturday night — the salary cap is $101,869,000, and the tax level is $123,733,000.