NEW YORK • The biggest question of the National Basketball Association off-season was answered on Monday when Kevin Durant, one of the best players ever to hit unrestricted free agency in any sport, agreed to join the Golden State Warriors.
He held talks with no fewer than six teams over the past week, including his current club Oklahoma City, the Warriors, the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Clippers, the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat.
His decision to leave the Thunder for the Warriors, who won an NBA-record 73 games in the regular season, lets the rich get richer.
With Durant, Golden State are creating a virtual Dream Team out of a starting unit that also includes All-Stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
The Warriors now become the overwhelming favourites to win next season's NBA championship, which would be their second in three years.
Durant made his announcement on The Players' Tribune website. While the terms have not been formally announced, a person briefed on the negotiations said it was a two-year deal worth US$54.3 million (S$73.2 million), with the second year being a player option.
IT'S ALL ABOUT GROWTH
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.
KEVIN DURANT, on the rationale behind his move to the Golden State Warriors.
The structure of the deal would allow Durant to opt out after next season and take advantage of the escalating salary cap to maximise his earnings.
"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," he said in the posting.
"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."
The reaction to Durant's decision was swift, with some on social media outlets predictably awarding Golden State the 2016-17 title, and others scorning Durant for leaving Oklahoma City and seeking an easier route to his first championship in the Bay Area.
For the Warriors, Durant will fill a specific need as a player who is far more adept at getting to the basket than anyone on their current roster, a flaw exposed by both the Thunder and the Cavaliers in the recent play-offs.
Perimeter defence and a great deal of physical contact seemed to shut down the team's enduring strategy that involved living and dying at the three-point line.
The threat Durant brings, of someone who can just as easily penetrate as he can knock down outside shots, would very likely free things up a great deal for Thompson and Curry, who have rarely needed much help in that regard but could, almost terrifyingly, now become even more effective.
To accommodate Durant's salary, the Warriors will have to make some roster moves that probably include renouncing their rights to restricted free agents Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli, and possibly trading another high-priced player, such as centre Andrew Bogut or the versatile Andre Iguodala, their valuable sixth man.
With depth having been a key part of the Warriors' strength-in-numbers approach, all of these potential moves could create new challenges for coach Steve Kerr.
There will also be an adjustment period for Durant, who has never played in a system with as much ball movement and is unaccustomed to the team-first approach, in which Golden State's players have often been asked to sacrifice personal statistics for the good of the group.
Still, for Durant to sign with a team already loaded with stars is likely an indication that he is willing to adjust in order to find the ultimate team success that has eluded him thus far.
NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE