(Update: ESPN is reporting that Kevin Durant’s contract will be for two years and $54.3 million.)
NBA superstar Kevin Durant is leaving Oklahoma City, according to reports. He is signing with the Golden State Warriors, per his announcement on The Players Tribune, which crashed minutes later.
The four-time league scoring champion helped lead the OKC Thunder to the Western Conference Finals this past season, falling one win shy of toppling the record-setting Warriors, who ultimately won their second straight conference championship before losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.
Breaking on this 4th of July morning, the news of Durant’s signing is a crushing blow to an OKC fanbase that has taken unusual steps to alert KD of their desire for him to stay with the Thunder.
For example, Gov. Mary Fallin jokingly offered Kevin Durant a cabinet position if he stayed in Oklahoma, and NewsOK.com business writer Steve Lackmeyer tweeted at Durant’s mom asking her to make sure her son knows people like him in OKC. The Oklahoma Hall of Fame even inducted Durant (at age 27) prior to last season.
Durant’s exit leaves Thunder brass with the precarious predicament of replacing their franchise’s face and roughly 28 points per game. Since Russell Westbrook remains under contract for one more season before his own free agency, the former might seem easier … for the time being.
With the league’s salary cap and pay structure set to balloon even further after next season, several sports analysts predicted Durant would re-sign for one year in OKC and make another decision in 2017, along with free-agent-to-be Russell Westbrook.
Ultimately, that didn’t happen. Instead, the Thunder will enter next season without two of its big long-time starters and stars after the Thunder made a borderline blockbuster trade on draft night June 23.
Thunder shocker flips Serge Ibaka for Oladipo, Sabonis by William W. Savage III
The Thunder sent powerful power forward and fan-favorite Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic for former No. 2 overall pick Victor Oladipo, Ilyan Ilyasova and rookie Damontas Sabonis, the son of an international basketball legend.
The move seemed to make sense for OKC whether Durant remained or signed elsewhere in free agency. Now, a flurry of other moves could be set off as a result of Monday’s announcement.
The 2016-2017 NBA season will be the league’s 71st, and the regular season will begin Oct. 25. The schedule will be released in August.
Under the big top: Backstage at the OKC Thunder Circus by Bryan Smith
Kevin Durant honors fallen Thunder ‘family’ member by William W. Savage III