NEW YORK, United States, Jun 29 – Two-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Players Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard are talking about becoming teammates, according to multiple reports on the eve of the start of free agency.
ESPN and The Athletic websites each cited unnamed sources in reporting Durant and Leonard have discussed the possibility of each signing with the New York Knicks or Los Angeles Clippers.
Those clubs figure to have the money under NBA salary cap rules to afford the superstar duo, although other players and potential deals could scuttle the powerhouse combination.
Leonard led the Toronto Raptors to this year’s NBA crown, beating Durant’s Golden State Warriors in the championship series. Leonard was named the NBA Finals MVP in 2014 with San Antonio, which traded him to the Raptors last July.
Durant, who had been MVP of the past two years’ NBA Finals, suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in game five of this year’s finals and underwent surgery that is expected to sideline him for the entire 2019-20 campaign.
Still, teams are expected to make him big offers even knowing he would need a year to complete rehabilitation and much of another to regain peak form, taking a chance he will return to his dominating ways.
Leonard, who is from Los Angeles, is expected to receive offers from the Knicks, Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers, who could unite him with LeBron James and Anthony Davis to create a superteam lineup like no other in the league.
The Clippers could counter that with a Durant pairing and still offer the hometown and financial benefits as well as a strong young team and top coach in Glenn “Doc” Rivers.
New York offers money and the chance to revive a moribund club in the NBA’s biggest market.
Another possible contender is the Brooklyn Nets, although they reportedly are close to terms with Boston’s Kyrie Irving and are trying to pitch Durant on coming to Brooklyn.
There is also the possibility that both Durant and Leonard remain where they are with maximum payout contracts despite opting out of prior deals. Durant could do so to rehab his injury in familiar surroundings with Golden State and Leonard could choose to chase a repeat crown with the same team that thrilled Toronto and Canada during its playoff run.
Free agency begins Sunday and while deals can be agreed upon, none can be signed until next Saturday, a delay that produces numerous reports of agreements that teams cannot confirm, and ones that the player and team can back out of until signed and official, although such reversals are rare.