WASHINGTON – NBA stars Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade and Tim Duncan have made their first steps toward deciding where they will play next season, or in Duncan’s case if he will play at all.
Oklahoma City forward Durant, set to play for the US Olympic squad in Rio in August, was expected to meet with the Thunder before becoming a free agent on Friday and he becomes eligible to meet with other clubs.
Durant, 27, is reportedly looking at meeting with the New York Knicks, whose star player Carmelo Anthony will join Durant in Rio, and the Golden State Warriors, who won a record 73 games last season but lost to Cleveland in the NBA Finals.
Anthony says he has already started trying to lure Durant to the Knicks, who missed the playoffs last season.
Durant, who has spent his entire nine years in the NBA with the Thunder, is the most coveted free agent available.
While Cleveland superstar LeBron James has opted out of his deal with the Cavaliers, he has said he has “no interest” in leaving and he likely will re-sign a new one-year deal to set up a huge 2017 pay jump when the salary cap will skyrocket thanks to new NBA television contracts starting.
Durant, a seven-time All Star, has averaged 27.4 points a game and was the 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player. He averaged 28.2 points a game last season and led the Thunder to within one game of reaching the NBA Finals.
Durant could look for long-term security or do his own one-year deal and seek a king’s ransom next year as well.
Wade, 34, has made more than $300 million playing for the Miami Heat since joining the NBA as the fifth overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. But Wade is a pal of James and if he does leave the Heat, whom he helped to three NBA crowns, he might look to join the current champions.
“I hope that everything is quiet and works out the way I want, but I have no control over that, as much as people might think. It’s a lot of moving parts in free agency. I’m not worried about it,” Wade said after this past season.
Wade averaged 19.0 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists last season.
Ginobili, Fournier ponder future
Duncan exercised a $6.4 million player option for next season on Wednesday but retirement remains an option for the 40-year-old big man, who heled San Antonio match a club record with 67 wins and an NBA record with a 40-1 showing in home games. The Spurs lost to the Thunder in the second round of the playoffs.
Argentine guard Manu Ginobili, 38, has said he plans to take his time in deciding about playing a 15th season for the Spurs for $2.9 million next season.
“It has been an amazing run,” said Ginobili last month. “We all enjoy playing with each other. I’m so proud of having played with those guys for so many years and winning so many games, and even playing with the new guys.
“If there’s a reason why you always want to come back and keep being part of this, (it’s) because of the amazing chemistry, the good times and the good people that you play with and spend time with. Being a part of this team, I’m very proud of it, even if sometimes it doesn’t go our way.”
French swingman Evan Fournier and US center Dewayne Dedmon were extended qualifying offers by the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, giving Orlando the right to match any offer sheet either player receives from another club.
Fournier, 23, averaged a career-high 15.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.22 steals while shooting team highs of 40.0 percent from 3-point range and 83.6 percent from the free throw line. In 251 NBA games with Denver and Orlando, he has 11.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists.
Dedmon, 26, averaged 4.4 points and 3.9 rebounds last season. He has played for Golden State, Philadelphia and Orlando, averaging 3.8 points and 4.4 rebounds for his NBA career.