- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 30, 2019

For months, fans and league insiders widely assumed Kevin Durant would join the New York Knicks in free agency. But in a twist, it was another team from the Big Apple that landed the two-time Finals MVP.

Durant announced Sunday he’ll be signing with the Brooklyn Nets, alongside star point guard Kyrie Irving and center DeAndre Jordan. The 30-year-old star  agreed to a four-year, $164 million deal.

By signing with Brooklyn, Durant opted to leave the Golden State Warriors after three seasons. Durant won two championships with Golden State, but tore his Achilles during Game 5 of this year’s NBA Finals.

While Durant will likely miss all of next season because of the injury, this is still a massive win for the Nets. Brooklyn was once seen as having one of the most hopeless situations in the NBA — gutted from trading away multiple first-round picks to Boston for aging veterans in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

But over the past few seasons, the Nets have rebuilt by acquiring young talent off the scrapheap or in trades. This year, the Nets made the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

Now, Brooklyn will have Durant and Irving — two of the best offensive players in the league. Both are close friends and multiple reporters indicated the two have long wanted to team up. 

Irving, who will sign a four-year, $141 million deal with Brooklyn, leaves the Boston Celtics after two years. It was a tumultuous season for Irving after Boston fans turned on him following his repeated critiques of the team’s younger players in the press.  

Durant’s decision, meanwhile, was highly anticipated for months. In addition to never-ending rumors, the chatter around his pending free agency occasionally caused friction within the Warriors. In November, Golden State forward Draymond Green reportedly yelled at Durant near the end of a game, daring him to leave. The Warriors suspended Green one game for the comment, but many wondered if the incident would cause long-term damage.

Beyond the Green feud, it’s also easy to wonder how much Durant’s injury played a factor into his decision. ESPN analyst Jay Williams, who is friends with the superstar, blamed the team for “misdiagnosing” Durant after he missed nine games with a calf injury. When Durant returned for Game 5 against the Toronto Raptors, he suffered a torn Achilles in the second quarter.

In general, Durant is one of the most polarizing athletes in the NBA. His decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder and join the Warriors — coming off a 73-win season — was heavily criticized. Brooklyn, perhaps, allows Durant to reset his public image, especially as he works his way back from injury.

Outside of Durant joining the Nets, there were a number of other significant deals that took place on Day 1 of free agency.

Star point guard Kemba Walker agreed to a four-year, $141 million deal with the Celtics. Guard Klay Thompson re-signed with the Golden State Warriors on a max five-year, $190 million deal. Bucks guard Khris Middleton also agreed to n a five-year, $170 million contract to stay with Milwaukee.

The Washington Wizards quickly addressed their top priority when free agency opened Sunday, re-signing center Thomas Bryant to a three-year, $25 million deal. 

Former Wizards forward Trevor Ariza is joining the Sacramento Kings on a two-year deal.  

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