Kevin Durant is joining the Golden State Warriors. Saying he has experienced “by far the most challenging few weeks in my professional life,” Durant announced his decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday in a post on The Players’ Tribune. Durant is expected to sign a two-year, $54.3 million contract, sources told ESPN’s Marc Stein. The deal will include a player option after the first year.
“The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a player — as that has always steered me in the right direction,” Durant wrote. “But I am also 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.”
After Durant signs with Golden State, two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry will be the fourth-highest-paid player on the Warriors. Durant will be No. 1, followed by Klay Thompson ($16.6 million), Draymond Green ($15.3 million) and Curry ($12.1 million), who can become a free agent after next season. Green told The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears in a text message that he was ecstatic the Warriors landed Durant. He tweeted to express his enthusiasm about his new teammate. “I’m excited about the opportunity to add one of the best players in the world to our team and welcome him to our brotherhood! This will be some of the best times of our life, and I’m looking forward to it,” he wrote. Durant’s contract can be finalized Thursday, when the leaguewide moratorium on signings and trades is lifted. Warriors coach Steve Kerr was in Hawaii and said he learned about Durant’s decision to join Golden State via The Players’ Tribune, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported. The Warriors plan to renounce their rights to Harrison Barnes, sources told Stein, to help clear the salary-cap space needed to sign Durant. That will make Barnes an unrestricted free agent on Thursday. Barnes, sources told Stein, remains on course to sign with the Dallas Mavericks, who reached a verbal agreement with the 24-year-old on a four-year max deal worth $94.4 million, no matter what happened with Durant. The Mavericks also have agreed to a trade with the Warriors to acquire centerAndrew Bogut and his 2016-17 contract, with a base value of just over $11 million. Just before Durant’s Players’ Tribune post, Bogut removed references to the Warriors from his Twitter page.
Golden State will renounce its rights to center Festus Ezeli, which will make him an unrestricted free agent, but guard Shaun Livingston was told by the Warriors that he won’t be traded, sources told Spears. Golden State also agreed to a one-year, $2.9 million deal with Zaza Pachulia, according to a report by The Vertical. Thunder general manager Sam Presti expressed his team’s disappointment over Durant’s departure in a statement. “Kevin made an indelible mark on the Thunder organization and the state of Oklahoma as a founding father of this franchise,” Presti said. “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.” Presti later said the team had a pretty good idea that Durant was moving on even before its final meeting with him in the Hamptons on Sunday. “Even when we were relatively sure it probably wasn’t going to go our way, eight staff members and our owner stayed overnight in New York just to be there and to kind of finish it out,” Presti said at a news conference in Oklahoma City on Monday evening. “We’ve been there for every first in his career, and we wanted to finish it out the right way by being present whenever that decision was made, regardless of how it turned out.” Presti said he was alerted to Durant’s final choice in a phone call from Durant on Monday morning a few minutes before the announcement. “It was disappointing, it was hurtful; but at the end of the day, it was what he felt was best for him,” Presti said. The Thunder will take some time before making any roster decisions, particularly related to All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook‘s future, sources told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. The biggest catch on the free-agent market, Durant met with six teams over the past three days: Oklahoma City, Golden State, San Antonio, Boston, Miami and the Los Angeles Clippers. The Warriors held their meeting with Durant on Friday. On Saturday, Durant spoke with NBA legend Jerry West, a member of the Warriors’ executive board, on the phone, sources told ESPN’s Chris Broussard. West outlined the reasons he thought Golden State would be the ideal fit for the superstar forward.