Wednesday's NBA: Kevin Durant declines $31.5M player option

Mark Medina
The Mercury News
Warriors star Kevin Durant, left, will hit the market as a free agent this summer.

Oakland, Calif. — In what might be another signal of his expected departure, Kevin Durant opted out of his player option that would have paid him $31.5 million to be with the Warriors next season, a league source confirmed to Bay Area News Group. ESPN first reported the news.

Durant had planned to opt out of his player option ever since re-signing with the Warriors last summer. It did not become official, though, until Wednesday. Durant had until Saturday to decide.

Still, the move formally eliminated any possibility he would not entertain free agency and solely focus on spending next season rehabbing his surgically repaired right Achilles tendon.

Durant could have considered that in hopes of then landing either a five-year deal with the Warriors or a four-year deal next summer. Despite suffering an injury that has often derailed other players NBA careers, however, Durant is expected to receive a max contract anywhere in the NBA.

The Warriors can re-sign Durant for five years at $221 million. Durant can sign elsewhere for a four-year deal at $164 million. Or the Warriors could agree to a sign-and-trade with Durant so that they receive assets in return.

The Warriors have maintained publicly and privately that they have not considered the latter scenario. For now, they remain intent on hoping that Durant re-signs with the team after winning two NBA championships and two Finals MVP awards before his third season soured with rupturing his right Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors. Durant’s possible other suitors, including the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, also have enough cap space to sign him without a sign-and-trade.

Durant had surgery on his right Achilles tendon on June 12 at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. Dr. Martin O’Malley, who also has been a physician for the Brooklyn Nets and USA Basketball, performed the surgery. He had also performed surgery on Durant’s right foot in the 2014-15 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Since then, Durant has stayed in New York and it is currently unclear what rehab he has completed since then. Normally, players are immobilized for at least a month before beginning physical therapy. Meanwhile, the Warriors have not released a timetable on his expected return. They would not be surprised, though, if Durant is out for the whole season.

Gasol accepts deal

Raptors center Marc Gasol accepted a one-year player option for next season.

The value is approximately $25.6 million, marking the final year of a five-year contract Gasol signed with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2015. Had the 34-year-old Spaniard not accepted prior to the Thursday, he would have become a free agent on Sunday.

Raptors star Kawhi Leonard also has a one-year player option on his deal with a deadline for a decision Saturday, but he is expected to turn it down and become a free agent Sunday after leading Toronto to its first NBA title.

Associated Press contributed