LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – With his decision to join the Brooklyn Nets, Kevin Durant ended an era in Golden State while advancing a trend of the NBA’s elite players forging their own paths with new teams.
Durant will now team up with fellow All Star Kyrie Irving, who will depart Boston after just two seasons, leaving behind a Warriors franchise he helped lead to three consecutive NBA Finals.
Durant, 30, is expected to miss most if not all of next season while recuperating from a ruptured Achilles suffered during this month’s NBA Finals defeat by Toronto.
On paper, Golden State had more to offer Durant than any other team.
The Warriors could have rewarded Durant with a five-year, $221 million super max contract – far more than the $164 million he will receive from the Nets. They also provided the stability of a championship pedigree as Durant rehabs his injury.
Golden State have played in the last five Finals and the presence of Stephen Curry and exceptional coaching and ownership offers promise of a competitive future.
None of those factors were apparently more valuable than Durant’s freedom to choose his own path.
And in that regard he is following something of a trend.
LeBron James helped pioneer the way by leaving Cleveland to form a super team with Miami, returning to the Cavaliers following a four-year run with the Heat, before settling with the Los Angeles Lakers this past year.
James’ new running mate, Anthony Davis, forced his way from the New Orleans Pelicans in order to join the Lakers.
Even reigning NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard could soon be choosing a fresh destination over Toronto.
Durant previously made a splash in free agency by moving from Oklahoma City to the Warriors three years ago.
The decision will perhaps leave the Warriors with a question mark hanging over them as they enter the 2019-20 season.
In response to Durant’s move, the team on Sunday acquired All Star guard D’Angelo Russell in a sign-and-trade deal with the Nets that will send championship stalwart Andre Iguodala packing.
With shooting guard Klay Thompson also missing considerable time with a knee injury, for the first time in a long time the Warriors may not be calling the shots in the new season.