NBA free agency rumors: Latest buzz on Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and more

NBA free agency rumors: Latest buzz on Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and more

NBA free agency is less than two days away and the rumor mill already is in overdrive with rumors and speculation on the top players available, highlighted by Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant, Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard and Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving.

More than 40 percent of the league's players are unrestricted or restricted free agents this summer, so the balance of power could shift dramatically depending on where the top-tier free agents decide to sign.

Keep it right here for the latest rumors and news involving trades and free agency Friday.

11:11 p.m.: Indiana Pacers guard Darren Collison has decided to retire at 31, Marc Spears of ESPN's The Undefeated reports. His ESPN colleague, Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Collison is walking away from a $10 million to $12 million annual deal.

9:26  p.m.: The Durant Derby appears to be down to four teams, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and a return to Golden State Warriors. The Nets are the long-rumored destination of an Irving-Durant pairing.

5:15 p.m.: The Nets have made a qualifying offer to point guard D'Angelo Russell, making him a restricted free agent, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports. 

4:53 p.m.: Kawhi Leonard will meet with the Lakers next week, with Lakers legend Magic Johnson, who resigned as team president in May, in on the meeting, according to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times.

And from ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, via Marc Stein of the New York Times, comes word that the request for Magic and Jeanie Buss at the meeting is from Leonard himself.

...And still more on Magic's participation in Lakers free-agent discussions:

4:20 p.m.: Nikola Vucevic and the Orlando Magic appear to be working on a potential deal that would be in the neighborhood of four years, $90 million, per Mark Stein of The New York Times. Vucevic was a first-time All-Star last season and averaged 20.8 points and 12.0 rebounds for the Magic last season.

3:55 p.m.: It's looking like the Golden State Warriors are going to offer Klay Thompson a max contract. This decision would have been a no-brainer but after Thompson suffered a torn ACL in the NBA Finals, there were some questions about whether or not he would get one. The second "Splash Brother" averaged 21.5 points per game last season and has made 41.9 percent of his career 3-point shots.

3:15 p.m.: Could Houston Rockets center Clint Capela be on the move in the near future? Here's the latest on the 25-year-old star.

1:33 p.m.: Veteran forward Harrison Barnes could be returning to the Sacramento Kings on a four-year deal.

1 p.m.: The Warriors' plan to re-sign Durant, Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney could balloon the team's 2019-20 payroll to more than $375 million, per ESPN's Bobby Marks (h/t Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne). This enormous payroll figure includes around $200 million in luxury taxes.

10:40 a.m.: Al Horford should have no shortage of suitors in free agency after reportedly declining the 2019-20 player option in his contract with the Boston Celtics. ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne reported Friday an update on Horford's potential suitors.

In addition to teams like the Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans, who instantly emerged as possible landing spots, league sources say there are a few surprise bidders who are trying to land the veteran big man. These include the Sacramento Kings and Philadelphia 76ers.

10:30 a.m.: Recent reports (and the latest betting odds) pegged the Brooklyn Nets as the most likely landing spot for Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant. SNY's Ian Begley reported Friday, however, that the Nets are not the favorite for KD.

"Sources familiar with the matter told SNY that the Nets are not the front runners or favorites to sign Durant at the moment," Begley wrote.

This is quite an interesting turn with free agency almost 48 hours away. Durant should have no shortage of suitors despite suffering a ruptured Achilles in the 2019 NBA Finals, but any team that signs him likely won't compete for a championship next season because it's hard to envision KD coming back from his injury before the 2020-21 campaign.

10:15 a.m.: Could Kawhi Leonard join LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the Lakers? Here's what ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said on Friday's episode of "Get Up."

10 a.m. ET: The Los Angeles Lakers opened up almost enough salary cap space to sign a max free agent as a result of their reported trade with the Washington Wizards on Thursday. The New York Times' Marc Stein reported Thursday night that Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving is among the Purple and Gold's targets, in addition to Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard.

Click for the top 35 NBA free agents available this summer>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Celtics injuries: Kemba Walker (knee) out Sunday vs. Lakers

Celtics injuries: Kemba Walker (knee) out Sunday vs. Lakers

The Boston Celtics will have to take on the Los Angeles Lakers without Kemba Walker on Sunday afternoon.

The C's guard will miss his second straight game due to a sore left knee, the team announced Saturday. Head coach Brad Stevens revealed earlier this week Walker's knee swelled up and had to be drained. Walker also had his knee injected with Synvisc, a pain relief treatment used for knee soreness.

Robert Williams remains ruled out with a left hip bone edema, though there is hope the big man will return to the court after the Celtics wrap up their road trip.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Celtics-Lakers tips off Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET. When these two teams last faced off on January 20, the C's cruised to a 139-107 victory.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Lakers, which begins Sunday at 2:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 3:30 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.

Celtics' Brad Stevens the rare college-to-the-pros coaching success story

Celtics' Brad Stevens the rare college-to-the-pros coaching success story

LOS ANGELES — No matter what Brad Stevens does from here on out, he'll be remembered as one of the winningest coaches in Boston Celtics history. 

At 309 victories (and counting) after Friday’s 127-117 win over Minnesota, only three men — Red Auerbach (795), Tommy Heinsohn (427) and Doc Rivers (416) — have won more games pacing the Celtics sideline than Stevens. 

Making the milestone even more impressive is that Stevens came directly from the college ranks, where success has been a rarity. 

The most recent college-to-the-pros coach to struggle with the adjustment is Cleveland’s John Beilein. The former Michigan coach stepped down as the Cavs' head coach to assume a yet-to-be-determined job within the franchise. 

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Figuring out the secret sauce to Stevens’ success isn't easy.

He’ll be the first to tell you that a number of factors have come into play that allowed him to find success where so many of his college-to-the-pros brethren struggled. 

One of the reasons college coaches get opportunities to lead NBA teams is because of the track record of success they build up at the college level. Stevens led the Butler Bulldogs to a national runner-up finish in back-to-back seasons (2010 and 2011), a remarkable accomplishment for a mid-major program. 

For Stevens, preparing for the worst when it comes to wins and losses, was challenging at first. The lack of success Cleveland (15-40) has experienced this season was a major factor in Beilein’s decision to no longer coach the Cavs. 

“I find losing very challenging and this year has taken a much bigger toll on me than I expected,” Beilein said in a statement. “I grew concerned for the consequences this toll could potentially take on my own health and my family's well-being down the road. I was not certain I could be at my best for the remainder of the season and in the future. That would not be fair to the players, coaches and support staff."

Indeed, Stevens recalls how difficult dealing with all the losing in that first year was for him. 

As a rookie head coach with the Celtics, Stevens’ squad finished 25-57. To put that in perspective, Stevens won more games at Butler in five of his six seasons than he did in Boston as a rookie, and did so in less than half of an 82-game NBA season. 

“That first year was hard,” Stevens told NBC Sports Boston. “I remember being miserable because I never lost like that. But that’s part of it. You learn a lot about yourself, so when you get to that second year you feel a lot different.”

Those early struggles did not catch Stevens off-guard.

“Our first year was expected to be really hard,” Stevens said. “It was expected to be hard for a couple years.”

But a series of trades during the 2014-2015 season gave Boston just the jolt of confidence and talent needed to make a late-season charge. That ended with them getting the eighth and final playoff seed, where they swept in the first round by the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers. 

Sure, getting swept was disappointing. But that balanced out with the fact that Boston had found a brand of basketball that would serve as the foundation for the team’s future success. 

“We found a team that competed well together,” Stevens said. “We were able in year two to find our way, at least establishing a little bit with that group, how we wanted to play.”

Stevens is quick to credit the Celtics’ front office, ownership and his assistant coaches for providing the kind of support on and off the court, that a college coach making a jump of this magnitude, absolutely has to have. But maybe more than anything, a college coach making the jump to the NBA has to trust that the process of establishing a comfort level and a culture takes more than just one season. 

For Stevens, that’s the great disappointment in how things have played out with Beilein. While there’s a certain element of uncertainty that comes with making the jump to the pros, Beilein did his research in advance. Stevens was among the coaches he spoke with prior to taking the Cavs job. 

Beilein also spoke with Oklahoma City’s Billy Donovan, who also made the jump from a successful career in college to the NBA. 

"I talked to Billy the year before at length," Beilein told reporters earlier this season. "For like an hour on the phone. He encouraged me that he really liked (the NBA). He liked the pace of it. He really liked the coaching. He also said, ‘It’s a long season. You gotta be able to stay in there and hang through the tough times and just keep coaching.’ He encouraged me to do it." 

So did Stevens, who felt Beilein’s strength in working with young players, coupled with his innovative style of play, would make him an ideal head coach for a young Cavaliers squad. 

There’s a fairly high amount of trial and error that first year as well. 

“When I first got the job, I’m watching film of the Celtics from the year before and nobody is going to be back. This doesn’t make sense,,”Stevens recalled. 

Shortly before Stevens accepted the job, the Celtics traded away cornerstone players Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, leaving Rajon Rondo as the only starter with the team at that time, from the 2008 NBA title squad. 

But with each passing season, Stevens became more comfortable with the NBA. 

“You are in front of the media, in front of the cameras and you have to answer and do that every single day while preparing your team to play their best,” Stevens said. “It’s just a really challenging gig.”

And now in his seventh season, there’s little doubt that Stevens is comfortable with the league, its players and his role in moving Boston closer towards Banner 18.

I asked Stevens if there were one or two tips he had for a college coach who was contemplating a move to the NBA as a head coach. 

“What I always tell the college guys that are interested is, the summers are great,” Stevens said. “The middle of the season is going to throw a bunch of storms at you. That’s part of it. But that’s ... it’s a lot of fun if you keep the right perspective.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Lakers, which begins Sunday at 2:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 3:30 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App