It feels cold and callous to even talk about this right now.
Later tonight or early tomorrow morning the Warriors will receive and release the results of the MRI on Kevin Durant‘s right Achilles, but the team expects — as does anyone who watched it happen — that it will confirm a tear. It’s a career-threatening injury that may sideline Durant all of next season and could change the player he is down the line. It has cast a shadow over these NBA Finals.
Knowing that, talking about Durant and free agency — something that 24 hours ago was one of the biggest stories in the NBA — seems shallow.
Yet the grind of NBA free agency never stops. It will come on July 1, and Durant will have decisions to make then injury or not.
Durant’s injury is not going to change the marketplace much for him, the real question is, does it change his mindset?
Durant has a $31.5 million option for next season, something he has been a lock to opt out of no matter where he decided to play next season. His new starting salary — again, no matter where he plays — will be an estimated $38.2 million next season, meaning to opt-in he would give up $6.7 million. That’s not happening.
Meaning, expect Durant to still be a free agent.
Will other teams back off their pursuit of Durant? Don’t bet on it. Durant is one of a handful of true franchise cornerstone, “we can win a title with him as our best player” guys in the NBA, and if the cost of getting him is to pay for a year without his services, teams will be okay with that. The Knicks, Clippers, Nets, and everyone else will have that mindset.