Durant finally ‘free’ to come to Brooklyn
Two-time finals MVP declines $31 million option to stay with Warriors
“New York, New York! It’s a hell of a town!”
And Brooklyn isn’t so bad either.
With regards to composer Leonard Bernstein and lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green, the Big Apple appears to be front and center in the Kevin Durant free-agent sweepstakes, which will kick off in earnest on Sunday evening at 6 p.m. EDT.
Durant, the two-time NBA Finals MVP for Golden State who suffered a torn Achilles during Game 5 of this past season’s championship series against Toronto, declined to opt into the final year and $31.5 million remaining on his pact with the Warriors on Wednesday.
That move opened the door for Brooklyn Nets General Manager Sean Marks to go full throttle after a pair of soon-to-be free agents he has reportedly been coveting throughout this offseason.
Durant and Boston guard Kyrie Irving, who has had his sights set on relocating from Beantown to the Big Apple this summer, would be a two-man “Dream Team” here in Downtown Brooklyn, almost instantly elevating the Nets into the championship discussion.
That is, of course, if both players don’t decide to take their talents across the East River to the archrival New York Knicks.
Irving, a South Orange, N.J., native who grew up rooting for the Jason Kidd-led Nets of the early 2000s, just finished off his final campaign in Boston and isn’t returning to the Celtics.
Durant, who will likely miss the upcoming 2019-20 campaign while recovering from his devastating injury, is in New York this week, mulling his free-agent options ahead of this weekend’s frenzied free-for-all.
The addition of this dynamic duo to the Brooklyn roster would mean waving bye-bye to D’Angelo Russell, who is also set to hit unrestricted free agency Sunday evening.
Durant is eligible to sign a four-year, $164 million deal with the Knicks or Nets, or could max out at five years and $221 million to go back to the Warriors, according to ESPN.
His Achilles surgery was performed by Dr. Martin O’Malley, the Nets’ orthopedic specialist, here in New York at the Hospital for Special Surgery.
The 30-year-old superstar was apparently disgruntled with the way his injury was handled by the Warriors’ staff during the postseason, which saw Golden State fall in six games to Toronto, denying Durant his third consecutive title in Oakland.
The Nets’ medical and performance staff has earned plenty of plaudits over the past several seasons for helping players recover from injuries and upgrade their overall efficiency on the hardwood.
Combine that with Brooklyn’s organizational infrastructure, which includes the skills of player-development guru and Head Coach Kenny Atkinson and Marks’ penchant for roster-building, and the Nets would appear to be the frontrunners for both players.
However, one can never underestimate the allure of playing at Madison Square Garden for the franchise that has come to define pro basketball in New York.
The Knicks could very well swoop in and nab both franchise players from under the Nets’ noses in the week to come. But it’s hard to imagine that Marks made all his draft-day trades, salary dumps (Allen Crabbe’s ($18 million) and other moves to clear space for this tandem if he didn’t have an inkling as to whether or not they would actually come here.
“People are going to want to play here,” Marks noted during the Nets’ season-ending presser at the HSS Training Center in Sunset Park following the team’s first-round playoff ouster at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers.
“They’re going to want to play for Kenny. They’re going to want to play in Brooklyn. They’re going to play for this ownership group. And I think we have a lot of things going for us.”
As will the Knicks if Irving and Durant decide they want to play in the heart of midtown in the “World’s Most Famous Arena”, a facility that hasn’t seen an NBA champion since 1973 and is clamoring for Eastern Conference relevance after winning just one playoff series since Patrick Ewing hung up his sneakers.
For the next several days, the rumors and innuendos will continue to fly as they have all spring and summer.
But by next week, Durant and Irving will both have a new basketball home, be it on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, atop Pennsylvania Station or somewhere else on the NBA landscape.
Marks appears to be all in for both players being here in Brooklyn for the foreseeable future.
And if he gets his wish, the Nets will finally be in position to take over this town and seriously vie for the franchise’s first-ever NBA crown.
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