Basketball: Kevin Durant declines option with Warriors, Marc Gasol to stay with Raptors

(Reuters) – NBA superstar Kevin Durant has declined his US$31.5 million (S$42.7 million) player option with the Golden State Warriors and will become an unrestricted free agent, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday (June 26).

The 30-year-old forward and his business manager Rich Kleiman are in New York evaluating free agency options, according to the report. The NBA’s free agency period begins Sunday.

Durant has been in New York since travelling there to have surgery for the ruptured right Achilles tendon he suffered in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors.

Multiple reports have said the Brooklyn Nets are targeting Durant and Boston point guard Kyrie Irving, who is expected to opt out of his contract with the Celtics.

Even though Durant is expected to miss the entire 2019-20 season, the Nets, New York Knicks and Warriors all reportedly have expressed interest in signing him to a max contract.

A 10-time All-Star, two-time NBA Finals MVP and four-time scoring champion, Durant averaged 26.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists in 78 games in 2018-19.

Meanwhile, centre Marc Gasol will pass on free agency and return to the Toronto Raptors in 2019-20 after exercising his US$25.6 million player option on Wednesday.

Gasol could have been an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins on Sunday, but he will instead play out the final season of a five-year, US$113.2 million pact.

The 34-year-old arrived in Toronto in February via trade from the Memphis Grizzlies, with whom he spent his first 10-plus NBA seasons.

His numbers dipped in shortened minutes after joining the Raptors, but he helped the team to a lengthy playoff run capped by its first NBA championship in franchise history.

Gasol averaged 9.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 24.9 minutes per game across 26 games (19 starts) in the regular season with Toronto, down from 15.7-8.6-4.7 in 33.7 minutes per game in 53 starts with Memphis.

In 11 NBA seasons, Gasol has career averages of 15 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists, earning three All-Star nods.

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