Their long weekend of feverish persuasion and high anxiety paid off: The Warriors have convinced free agent forward Kevin Durant to come to the Bay Area.
Durant agreed Monday to leave Oklahoma City, where he spent the first nine seasons of his career, to become a member of the Warriors, who in winning a six-team race for the 2014 MVP will realize a dream they’ve had for at least two years.
Durant made the announcement via the Players Tribune website.
“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,” Durant wrote. “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.”
Though Durant can’t officially sign a contract before 9:01 p.m. (PDT) Wednesday – the four-time scoring champion has agreed to a two-year maximum deal at $54.3 million – choosing the Warriors is a mild surprise.
The general belief was that the 6-foot-10 forward would return to the Thunder, a legitimate championship contender able to offer the most attractive contract.
The Warriors were, however, considered the biggest threat to OKC and were relentless in their pursuit, sending a seven-man commission to New York for a three-hour meeting Friday with Durant and his representatives. Players Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green joined coach Steve Kerr, general manager Bob Myers and CEO Joe Lacob.
Team executive – and NBA legend – Jerry West reportedly phoned Durant on Saturday to close the deal.
Durant began his vetting process Thursday by meeting with Thunder executives in OKC before flying to New York and, along with his representatives from Roc Nation, greeting potential suitors.
After meeting with the Warriors on Friday morning, the group met with the Clippers (Friday afternoon) and Spurs (Saturday morning) and Celtics (Saturday afternoon) and Heat (Sunday morning). The Thunder reportedly had one more visit with Durant on Sunday afternoon.
With Durant agreeing to sign, the Warriors can rescind qualifying offers to Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli, allowing them to become unrestricted free agents. Barnes reportedly is in line to get an offer from the Mavericks.
To sign Durant to a four-year deal that begins at $26.6 million per year, the Warriors also will make additional roster moves, something they’ve already sketched out, according to NBA sources.
The Warriors have been hoping to lure Durant to Oakland since at least 2014 and nothing really changed in the interim. Turning 28 in September, he’s six months younger than Curry and should be in his prime. Durant is the league’s most dangerous frontcourt scorer, capable of driving into the paint or drilling from deep.
By adding Durant, the Warriors have four legitimate All-Stars (Curry, Thompson and Green are the others) and have the most explosive starting lineup in the league.
Durant’s decision to come west will require considerable roster maneuvering and salary shedding by the Warriors, who surely will lose restricted free agent forward Harrison Barnes (probably to Dallas), likely will lose restricted free agent center Festus Ezeli and will consider trading center Andrew Bogut.