OAKLAND -- Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant say they plan to be Warriors next season and beyond, both implying they are willing to offer the team financial flexibility to help retain the nucleus of the team that last week won the NBA Finals.
Durant on Monday reiterated his stance, according to ESPN, which reported the 6-foot-9 forward has decided to exercise the opt-out clause in his current contract to re-sign a short-term deal that would be at least $3.5 million less than the maximum.
Such a move would increase the chances of the Warriors keeping intact the core of the team by providing greater latitude to negotiate with upcoming free agents Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.
The team’s core, in this instance, is composed of Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Curry, Durant, Iguodala and Livingston.
Hearing the team’s superstars indicate they will prioritize continuity over the chance to earn every possible dollar may at least partially mitigate the task awaiting president/general manager Bob Myers.
“Any statement by any player expressing the fact that they like playing for our team and want to keep playing for our team is a positive,” he said Monday. “That’s certainly what you want. Those are all good things.”
Myers said the franchise hopes to do its part to make itself inviting to players, something it has succeeded in doing since Joe Lacob and Peter Guber bought the team in November 2010.
It’s Lacob and Guber who will have the final say on whether team is able to retain all six members of the core.
“They’re going to be paying the luxury tax, so it’s just a matter of how much,” said one NBA front office executive. “They’ve not been making decisions based on cost, on saving money, so it’s possible they’ll do what it takes.
“It comes down to this: How much are they willing to pay out?”
Durant can opt out on June 29, and free agency opens July 1. By opting out, Durant would still get a 20 percent salary bump, to roughly $31.8 million, and the Warriors would not have to renounce Iguodala and Livingston, and would have Bird Rights to both veterans, giving them an advantage in re-signing both without a prohibitive penalty.
As for Curry, his salary won’t have any impact because all others will be in the fold before he gets the five-year “Super Max,” worth roughly $205 million.
This is the scenario the Warriors have visualized ever since signing Durant last July, and it would allow them to make more competitive offers to Iguodala and Livingston, both of whom will be highly coveted once they hit the market.
Consider this: Jamal Crawford last July signed a three-year contract worth $42 million to remain with the Clippers. This is pertinent because Crawford was, at age 36, still considered a valuable reserve on a winning team.
It’s the same with Iguodala, 33, and Livingston, 31, who have been core members of a team that with two championships and three straight trips to the NBA Finals has accomplished infinitely more than the Clippers.
What might Iguodala, who made $11 million last season, be worth? Start at around $14 million, even though his minutes must be monitored. The Warriors would have to entertain something close to that, and Iguodala would be flexible within reason.
“I don’t know,” Myers said. “Free agency is predictably unpredictable. We love Andre and, hopefully, we can find a way to make it work for not just him but for all of our guys.”
As someone whose minutes also must be monitored, Livingston still may command twice the $5.5 million he averaged in three seasons with the Warriors. They’d wince at a $10 million salary, but they wouldn’t dismiss it outright. Livingston, too, would be flexible. He purchased a home here, his daughter was born here and he hopes to live in it for years to come.
Understand, Iguodala and Livingston want to remain with the Warriors, and if all things are equal -- or close to equal -- and they feel valued, they likely would return.
Though Iguodala’s desire is to remain with the Warriors -- he was clear about this in several late-season conversations with NBCSportsBayArea.com -- he also conceded there were conditions that needed to be met for him to return to the Warriors.
Contract length also is a factor Iguodala and Livingston. Both want and have earned multiple years.
“We all would love to keep the group together,” Livingston said last week. “We’ve seen what we’re able to accomplish together. We’ll see what happens when that time comes. There’s obviously a domino effect.”
The first domino is Durant. Following that is Iguodala and Livingston, one or both. Following that, it’s time to pay Curry, after which the Warriors would regroup and figure out how to spend what remains, with the bulk of it going to those who can play center.
“We still feel like it’s an important position, but we just have a lot of money in other positions,” Myers said.
Durant is prepared to do his part.
“It would be a special team, special group,” he said last week. “It’s a business in basketball, obviously, so nothing is for sure.
“But, here, I feel like we can work that out and everybody will have a chance to do this again next year. It’s easier said than done, obviously, but that’s the goal. We want to keep this thing together and see how we can continue to keep getting better.”