Kevin Durant was not phased by his all-out war with the Golden State Warriors in the conference finals, as he has decided to sign with the Golden State Warriors, he announced on his site The Players Tribune Monday. They form a historic juggernaut that will be the prohibitive title favorite for a long time.
Durant will sign a max 2-year, $54.3 million deal with the Warriors, with an option for the '17-'18 season. This opens the market again next summer, where the Celtics will be contenders.
"The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a player — as that has always steered me in the right direction. But I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth. With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors." -Kevin Durant
The news is devastating for the Celtics, who had gone all out to capture Durant. With Durant likely off the market for the rest of his prime, the Celtics will have to turn elsewhere through next summer as they pursue another franchise cornerstone. The Warriors will be able to absorb Durant's $35 million starting salary if and when he opts out next summer and barring some catastrophe, he will be taking that offer.
The Celtics trotted out Tom Brady for their pitch to Durant, along with players Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk. But the Warriors pulled their trump card after the meeting by having their Executive Board member and NBA legend Jerry West call Kevin Durant Saturday evening, per ESPN's Chris Broussard. Apparently West's career story -- losing his first seven trips to the finals before finally winning with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1972 after Wilt Chamberlain came on board -- left an indelible impression on Durant.
West's pitch centered on making Durant's life easier by not having to carry the offense on his shoulders along with Russell Westbrook, as Steph Curry controls the ball while Durant will play on the wing. West even pitched Durant on the idea that his overall game is not appreciated in his situation in OKC, as was evidenced when Durant's defensive potential finally shined through in the Conference Finals against the Warriors.
So now Durant forms an unprecedented Big Four, surrounded by two-time MVP and two other All-NBA superstars. The Warriors will renounce restricted free agents Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli and will trade Andrew Bogut and his $11 million salary to clear room for Durant. But with this remarkable starting lineup, the Warriors are massive favorites to win the NBA Finals for the foreseeable future.
After signing Al Horford for the next four years, the Celtics have taken their next step forward to improving last season's team that fell to Horford's Hawks in the first round after being decimated by injuries. Horford is the ideal complimentary star, someone who does not crave the ball or limelight and is effective at a high level in nearly every facet of the game. But the Celtics are still missing that world-beating force on the ball that they hoped Durant would provide. Although there are other players they could attempt to acquire to fill that role, Durant was their best chance at creating the title contender Ainge craved.
With the Warriors creating this unprecedented pantheon of talent, competing for the title this upcoming season seems farfetched for everyone outside of Cleveland and San Antonio.