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NBA free agency winners and losers: How wild first day reshaped league

NBA free agency winners and losers: How wild first day reshaped league

When the dust settled on the first day of the NBA free agency, the league looked a heck of a lot different.

Kevin Durant announced he would join his third team in five seasons, and Kyrie Irving reportedly is coming with him. The Warriors reportedly reshuffled their roster in response, while other contenders around the league wasted no time to take advantage of the uncertainty in the Bay Area.

That all happened in fewer than 24 hours, with questions surrounding Kawhi Leonard's future looming over the entirety of the proceedings. Still, more than enough happened during the first official day of free agency for some winners and losers to emerge.

Here they are, beginning with a team that now can be considered a legitimate title threat.

Winners: Utah Jazz

The Jazz looked around the rest of the Western Conference and saw an opportunity. Just under two weeks after reportedly acquiring point guard Mike Conley from the rebuilding Memphis Grizzlies, the Jazz continued to build out its roster and reportedly agreed to contracts with Bojan Bogdanovic and Ed Davis on Sunday.

Bogdanovic and Davis each brings a particular skill to the Jazz. The former can shoot the lights out, having knocked down 42.5 percent of his 3-pointers last season. Davis, meanwhile, finished second in the NBA by averaging a whopping 17.3 rebounds per 36 minutes last season. The Jazz finished in the top 10 by both measures last season, but what already was a solid team now has added elite talents in areas that previously could have been considered strengths.

That's how a perennial playoff team leaps into championship contention -- even if we were in an alternate reality where the Warriors have a healthy Klay Thompson to start the season. The Jazz still is looking for its first NBA title but is set up for its best chance at a Finals appearance since the days of Karl Malone and John Stockton.

Losers: Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers seemed intent on testing the cliché that good things come to those who wait. As players LA previously were linked to reportedly agreed to contracts with other teams, the purple and gold stayed quiet.

It made some sense, considering the Lakers were linked to Leonard, the reigning NBA Finals MVP. But if Leonard opts to sign elsewhere -- whether that's with the crosstown Clippers or the league champion Toronto Raptors -- Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka likely will be kicking himself for playing the waiting game.

Pelinka won't have many options to surround LeBron James and Anthony Davis with talent, considering just how many players reportedly were no longer available at the end of Sunday. Rumored backup plans, such as ex-Lakers Brook Lopez and D'Angelo Russell, reached agreements with other teams, leaving the possibility that the Lakers will end the free-agent frenzy empty-handed outside of its two superstars.

They won't sweat the early inaction if they eventually land Leonard, but that remains a big if.

Winner: ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski

Free agency officially began at 3 p.m. PT on Sunday, but you wouldn't have known it if you scrolled through Wojnarowski's Twitter feed. The ESPN reporter scooped the biggest news of the day -- Durant leaving the Warriors to sign with the Nets -- over an hour before KD and Brooklyn legally could begin negotiating.

In all, Wojnarowski reported seven contract agreements ... within the first five minutes of free agency actually beginning. Those must have been some quick negotiations ...

Loser: Tampering rules

Speaking of which: According to the NBA's rules, "teams may negotiate deals with free agents but cannot officially sign them until [9 a.m. PT] on July 6." What isn't allowed under the NBA's rules, according to the collective bargaining agreement, is when a player or team "directly or indirectly, entices, induces, persuades or attempts to entice, induce, or persuade" a player under contract to join another team.

Considering how many players reached deals before or shortly after free agency began, it's fair to assume many in the league are taking this as a suggestion rather than a rule. If it's going to be like this -- and to be absolutely clear, it's a lot more fun this way -- why not get rid of the rule altogether?

Winners: Brooklyn Nets

The Nets' haul might not bear fruit until the 2020-21 season, as that's when Durant likely will return after rupturing his right Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. And even then, that fruit depends on how Durant returns from said injury.

But make no mistake: Durant joining Irving in Brooklyn is a major coup for the Nets. They no longer will live in the shadow of the dysfunctional Knicks in the Big Apple, and general manager Sean Marks has assembled a talented young group to supplement two All-NBA talents.

The Nets' path to contention sans Durant looks difficult next season, especially after the Philadelphia 76ers reportedly loaded up by agreeing to re-sign Tobias Harris and poaching Al Horford from the Boston Celtics. But if Durant even comes close to playing like his old self, the Nets haven't been so well-positioned since ... well, maybe ever?

Loser: James Dolan

Danny Ainge and the Celtics salvaged their day by reportedly agreeing to a four-year deal with Kemba Walker, a nice consolation prize after all they ultimately got from a one-sided, draft-day trade with said Nets in 2013 was a pile of picks, no superstar and a lousy T-shirt. The same cannot be said for the New York Knicks.

With cap space to burn -- and then some -- the Knicks reportedly opted against offering Durant a maximum contract. The concern surrounding Durant's Achilles is understandable, but reportedly agreeing to deals with Julius Randle, Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis is no way to assuage a(n admittedly-delusional) fan base that envisoned a summer starring KD, Irving and Zion Williamson.

The latter meant putting their faith in ping-pong balls, and the former two meant placing it in owner Dolan, who's the real loser at the start of free agency. Dolan, of course, told ESPN Radio in New York back in March that free agents were telling the Knicks how much they wanted to play in Madison Square Garden.

There is a rich irony in J.D. of "J.D. and the Straight Shot" fame not exactly being a straight shooter, but given his history, that shouldn't come as much of a surprise at this point.

Winner: D'Angelo Russell

At this time in 2017, the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft was on his way out of LA. Two years, an All-Star appearance and a reported max contract later, Russell appears to be the focal point of the Warriors' biggest pivot yet.

Golden State reportedly agreed to acquire the guard in a sign-and-trade with Brooklyn, ensuring it wouldn't be left empty-handed after Durant announced he intends to sign with the Nets. Getting any kind of an asset, let alone an All-Star who might or might have been headed to a rival if you didn't, is smart work from Warriors general manager Bob Myers.

The questions surrounding his fit are real, but the biggest winner is Russell himself. He revitalized his career in Brooklyn, and now has the chance to take another step while the NBA's most successful team over the last half-decade reinvents itself on the fly.

Assuming Russell is in the Bay Area for the long haul, he would face plenty of criticism if said reinvention falls flat. That's a lot to ask of a 23-year-old, but it represents a remarkable turnaround from where he stood just two years ago.

[RELATED: Russell move was best one the Warriors could make]

Loser: Anyone trying to predict what comes next

For the second consecutive summer, the Warriors threw a wrench into just about what everyone expected. Reportedly acquiring Russell might not be as titanic as adding DeMarcus Cousins to a core of Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, but it's no less surprising.

The Warriors again reminded us to expect the unexpected when it comes to the NBA's silly season. Yes, the whispers surrounding Durant and Irving largely came to fruition, but Sunday showed there still are plenty of surprises in store as the league enters uncharted territory.

Golden State is vulnerable with Durant gone and Thompson out for much (if not all) of 2019-20, just as Toronto will be if Leonard leaves. Because of that, the upcoming NBA season looks to be the first in recent memory where things truly are wide open.

How that will shake out is anyone's guess, and guessing looks to be a pointless endeavor if a wild start to free agency was any indication.

NBA rumors: Knicks weren't prepared to give Kevin Durant max contract

NBA rumors: Knicks weren't prepared to give Kevin Durant max contract

Kevin Durant spurned the New York Knicks and will sign with the Brooklyn Nets.

Shortly after the two-time NBA Finals MVP made the announcement Sunday, we learned the following from ESPN's Ramona Shelburne:

If true, it's absolutely mind-boggling that the Knicks would refuse to give KD the full four-year, $164 million max. In fact, it's so ridiculous that it seems like it can't be true.

Then again, James Dolan is the owner of the Knicks -- who have won one playoff series in the last 19 seasons.

Yes, Durant probably will miss all of next season, and he might not ever be the same player because of his ruptured right Achilles. But he's still worth the max.

[RELATEDKD's past comments about Kyrie might explain move to Nets]

Is this just how the Knicks are spinning losing out to the Nets? Or did they really tell KD and his business partner, Rich Kleiman, that they weren't offering him the biggest contract they possibly could?

We'll eventually learn more, but the Knicks received so much heat for reportedly passing on KD that they felt compelled to release a statement about it.

The Julius Randle-Taj Gibson era is about to start. Get hyped, Knicks fans.

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NBA rumors: Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard have discussed teaming up

NBA rumors: Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard have discussed teaming up

Could the Los Angeles Clippers' dream scenario actually be a possibility?

For months, it was reported that the Clippers desired to sign both Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant this summer, putting together a feared duo that couldn't be matched in the NBA.

That dream seemed to fall by the wayside after Durant ruptured his Achilles during the Warriors' NBA Finals loss to Leonard and the Raptors, with most believing Durant either would re-sign with Golden State or head to the Brooklyn Nets along with Kyrie Irving.

LA's dream might not be dead, though, as Leonard and Durant have had conversations about playing together, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne reported Saturday, citing league sources. 

Both Durant and Leonard will command max contracts, and at this time, only the Clippers and New York Knicks appear to be possible landing spots for both players. 

The Nets could sign both stars, but they appear to be set on adding Irving, which would take them off the table as a potential fit for both Durant and Leonard.

Meanwhile, The Athletic's Sham Charania reported Saturday, citing NBA executives, that the pairing has been discussed and the Clippers have hope.

"Rival executives told The Athletic they believe Durant has considered a possible partnership with Leonard throughout the pre-free agency process so far," Charania wrote. "For the Clippers a potential duo of Leonard and Durant is the pitch they believe will trump any others — including Brooklyn’s."

[RELATED: Report: Nets not 'front-runner or favorite' for KD]

Durant reportedly will meet with the Clippers, Knicks, Nets and Warriors in New York, and Leonard is set to meet with the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks and Raptors in Los Angeles.

If the two All-Stars do indeed link up, the NBA landscape forever would be altered, and the 2021 league champions  (when Durant will return from injury) will be crowned 24 months ahead of time.