OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The NBA Finals MVP gladly accepted a pay cut.
One day shy of a year after announcing his decision to join the powerhouse Warriors, Kevin Durant took far less than he could have to help make sure they stay winners and chase more championships. KD agreed to terms Monday on a contract worth approximately $53 million over the next two years.
Still exhilarated from his first career title, Durant has made it clear he hopes to build a dynasty alongside Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Durant’s new contract calls for about $25 million in the first year with a player option for the second season, a person with direct knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity Monday because it won’t become official until the end of the free agency moratorium period Thursday.
As he planned all along to provide the Warriors with financial flexibility, Durant waited as Golden State general manager Bob Myers signed the other free agents — Curry for a record $201 million over five years; 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala on a three-year contract with $48 million guaranteed; fellow key reserves Shaun Livingston for $24 million and three years, and David West on a one-year deal for the veteran minimum $2.3 million.
Last Thursday, Durant declined to opt in for the $27.7 million second year of his previous deal with the Warriors and became an unrestricted free agent. The move was expected as Durant insisted when the season ended that he would do his part to keep the core of the roster intact. He could have signed a max deal that would have paid him millions more next season, but that contract will come soon enough. He is expected to decline the player option next year and sign for the maximum then.
He and Curry vowed to do whatever they could in negotiations to ensure Myers had money to work with to keep as many of the others as possible.
Durant, villainized for his choice to bolt OKC, made it clear he wasn’t going anywhere. The 28-year-old forward had been projected to receive a 20 percent raise over the $26.5 million he made last season, which would have been about $31.8 million.
After he missed 19 games with a left knee injury, Durant returned to the floor late in the regular season with his Warriors on a roll and declared he would take his game to another level come playoff time.
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 playoff games. He also emerged as a smothering defender and shot-blocker, handling much of the load against LeBron James during the Finals. The Warriors beat the Cavaliers in five games for their second title in three seasons, and Durant’s first after he departed Oklahoma City to join a super team.
A year ago on July 4, Durant announced his decision to leave the Thunder, something that still stings for his former fans in Oklahoma. That choice came after Curry, Green, Iguodala and Thompson traveled to the Hamptons to make their group plea for KD.
The scrutiny came immediately: Would there be enough shots to go around? How would Curry respond to no longer being the biggest Bay Area basketball star? How long would it take for chemistry to develop?
All of those things were pretty much moot.
The Warriors just kept winning, and their championship said it all. Every team is now chasing the franchise.
Ten years after becoming the No. 2 draft pick behind Greg Oden, Durant hoisted a trophy and will have his ring at last .
Curry, the two-time MVP, allowed Durant to get comfortable right away by putting his own stats aside. By late in the season, he and Durant were sharing the same practice court engaging in fierce but good-natured shooting contests .
“You don’t have to be great friends to be great teammates,” coach Steve Kerr said, “but I think it helps.”
Durant had pushed Curry from afar years ago.
“We were the same freshman class in college, so I was always chasing KD’s numbers my freshman year,” Curry said. “Any time I had a good game he was always, our points per game were really close. Then he kind of took off down the stretch that freshman year, but I knew he was pretty much a one-and-done-type situation. I didn’t follow the draft that much that year but for somebody that has so much potential and hype around him, to actually see it to fruition, with that kind of pressure, that kind of spotlight, and almost exceed expectations throughout his career, that’s a mark of a guy that wasn’t complacent with where he was at any point, always wanted to get better. He’s done that.”
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