Du­rant takes less to chase more wins

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

OAK­LAND, Calif. — The NBA Fi­nals MVP gladly ac­cepted a pay cut.

One day shy of a year af­ter an­nounc­ing his de­ci­sion to join the Golden State War­riors, Kevin Du­rant took far less than he could have to help make sure they chase more cham­pi­onships.

Du­rant agreed to terms Mon­day on a con­tract worth about $53 mil­lion over the next two years.

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.

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.

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.

One of the top avail­able free agents re­main­ing, Utah Jazz All-Star for­ward Gor­don Hay­ward, has vis­ited his suit­ors. All that’s left is a de­ci­sion.

The Miami Heat, Bos­ton Celtics and Jazz are all await­ing word on what the 27-yearold will do. Mon­day af­ter­noon in San Diego, where Hay­ward has a home, he met with the

only bosses and team­mates he’s ever known — Jazz owner Gail Miller; Gen­eral Man­ager Den­nis Lind­sey; Coach Quin Sny­der; and a group of play­ers led by cen­ter Rudy Gobert, the league’s lead­ing shot blocker last sea­son, and re­cently re­signed for­ward Joe In­gles, Hay­ward’s clos­est friend on the team.

The Jazz also brought in newly ac­quired point guard Ricky Ru­bio, who made the trip from Spain, ESPN re­ported.

The meet­ing was the last of three in a three-city tour for Hay­ward, who be­gan his trip Satur­day in Miami with Pat Ri­ley and the Heat and continued to Bos­ton on Sun­day, where his for­mer col­lege coach Brad Stevens and the Celtics made their pitch.

The 6-8 Hay­ward av­er­aged 21.9 points, 5.4 re­bounds, 3.5 as­sists and shot nearly 40 per­cent from three-point range in earn­ing his first All-Star se­lec­tion last sea­son with the Jazz.

The Jazz can of­fer him a longer, richer con­tract (five years, $172.4 mil­lion) than Bos­ton and Miami can (four years, $127.8 mil­lion), and a guar­an­tee he’ll re­main the cen­tral fig­ure on of­fense. Utah has pro­gres­sively im­proved year-to-year over the past four sea­sons, too, go­ing from 25 vic­to­ries to 38 to 40 to 51 last sea­son, reach­ing the sec­ond round of the play­offs back in May be­fore be­ing swept by the War­riors.

Late Mon­day, the New York Knicks signed for­mer Van­der­bilt cen­ter Luke Kor­net to one of the two-way con­tracts al­low­able un­der the new Col­lec­tive Bar­gain­ing Agree­ment.

NBA teams are al­lowed two two-way play­ers on their ros­ter in ad­di­tion to their 15-man ros­ter. The two-way player spends most of his time with the NBA club’s G League — which used to be called the D League — af­fil­i­ate, but can spend up to 45 days with the NBA team dur­ing the sea­son.

The 7-1 Kor­net av­er­aged 13.2 points, 6.2 re­bounds and 2.0 blocks last sea­son, earn­ing All-SEC and All-SEC de­fen­sive honors. He holds the NCAA record for three-point­ers made by a 7-footer with 150.

Kor­net is play­ing with the Knicks’ sum­mer league en­try in Or­lando, Fla.


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