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Volume 26 No. 178
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Durant Injury Likely To Change Landscape Of NBA Offseason

Durant's injury could be a blow to teams hoping to sign him and become an immediate contender
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Durant's injury could be a blow to teams hoping to sign him and become an immediate contender
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Durant's injury could be a blow to teams hoping to sign him and become an immediate contender
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Kevin Durant appears likely to miss part of next season after injuring his Achilles during Game 5 of the NBA Finals, and now a "bigger-picture question" has emerged within the NBA, as it remains to be seen "which teams, and which star players, can afford to wait on Durant’s return to health," according to Ben Golliver of the WASHINGTON POST. It is a question that "touches nearly every corner of the league, as Durant has been linked in rumors" to the Warriors, Knicks, Clippers and Nets. Sources said that multiple teams "continue to view Durant as worthy of a max contract" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/12). USA TODAY's Jeff Zillgitt writes what Durant decides to do "will impact what other players decide to do," so his injury "already alters" next season. He can choose to "opt in to the final year of his contract with the Warriors" at $31.5M and become a free agent in '20. If he decides to become a free agent this offseason, he "will have suitors who will offer him a max contract." That possibly "jeopardizes the idea of Durant teaming up with another star" (USA TODAY, 6/12). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Ben Cohen notes this summer and free agency has "often seemed more interesting than everything that was happening during the actual NBA season." Durant’s suitors now have to "calculate whether he’s still worth offering a maximum contract over four years, even if he might not play for the first year of the deal" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/12).

BUTTERFLY EFFECT: The AP's Tim Reynolds notes Kyrie Irving’s free agency decision "could hinge on what Durant does," and Kawhi Leonard’s decision also "could be affected by what Durant does." There is also the question of how the Knicks, Nets, Clippers, Mavericks, Lakers, Hawks and "all the other teams who have cap space will start spending their money" when free agency opens. It all "will be determined, at least on some level, by what Durant does" (AP, 6/12). In Boston, Gary Washburn notes whichever team decides to sign Durant "now knows he’s likely to miss next season." That is a "difficult blow for the Knicks, who wanted to pair two maximum free agents -- perhaps Irving and Durant -- and become a contender immediately." Now, if the Knicks "invest a max salary in Durant, it more than likely will be" for the '20-21 season and beyond. Durant’s injury "completely changes the potential of a Durant-Irving free agent package, perhaps leaving Irving on an island to sign with a team by himself." Durant's future has been the "most discussed because of how it could alter the power base of the league" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/12).