OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Kevin Durant declined to opt in for the second year of his contract with Golden State and will become an unrestricted free agent, an expected move for the NBA Finals MVP who said he plans to do his part to keep the core of the champion Warriors intact to chase more titles.
A person with direct knowledge of the decision confirmed Durant’s intentions Thursday, speaking to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no formal announcement had been made.
When the season ended, Durant made it clear he plans to stay with the Warriors. The 28-year-old Durant was due to earn more than $27.7 million for 2017-18 yet said he would go this route to provide the franchise with financial flexibility so Golden State general manager Bob Myers might be able to retain other key members of the group — like key reserve and 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala — for what everyone hopes is another special postseason run next year. Then Durant could receive his max deal a year from now.
Durant now will need to begin working out a new deal once the free agency period begins Saturday, but might wait to see how things play out with his free-agent teammates before signing. He is expected to gain a 20 percent raise over the $26.5 million he made last season and would earn about $31.8 million. Durant had a deadline of Thursday to make his decision.
“It means a lot. It just shows the commitment when a guy’s willing to take less, the commitment to the team,” Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green said Wednesday. “You look at the situation, sometimes you have to do that in order to make things work. I took less so we could go and get Kevin. And it worked out. If you want to keep great teams, keep everything aligned, sometimes you have to do that. You have to be willing to sacrifice.”
Two-time MVP Stephen Curry also has indicated while he is thrilled to be up for a major raise with a new super-max deal, which could put him at the $205 million mark, he also is committed to winning for the long haul and shares Durant’s team-first philosophy.
In the postseason, Durant averaged 28.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists and shot 55.6 percent, scoring more than 30 points in nine of his 15 games.
“It’s amazing to have that kind of talent and humility and the team-oriented demeanor that both guys have,” coach Steve Kerr said last week. “The fact that both those guys are so willing to think about and not only with points and shots and everything else but they want to do what’s best for the team all the time, every single day. So it’s a powerful force when you have that kind of talent and humility, and it sets a great tone for us.”
Iguodala has full Bird rights, meaning the Warriors can exceed the salary cap to retain him as one of their own free agents. He is expected to generate high interest and salary outside the organization as free agency starts.
Curry, who won the MVP the past two years and earned $12 million this season, scored 28.1 points in the playoffs while also contributing 6.7 assists and 6.2 rebounds.