Kevin Durant is full of surprises—so much so he shocked even his own head coach by re-signing with the Golden State Warriors at an unexpectedly steep discount.
Though it was presumed Durant would take a slight pay cut so the Warriors could retain the Bird rights to Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, he was supposed to take the non-Bird max, which worked out to just a couple million less than he was eligible to make outright. Instead, he cut about $9.5 million off his bottom line for next season, spurring epic debates around Twitter, lightening the Warriors’ luxury-tax bill, perhaps making it easier for them to sign Nick Young and, most notably, surprising the hell out of Steve Kerr.
From the Bay Area News Group’s Anthony Slater:
The decision by Kevin Durant to take the huge paycut of nearly $9.5 million. Sounded like that surprised Bob (Myers). How surprised were you and what were your thoughts on it?
I knew he was going to give up enough money to allow us to keep Andre and Shaun. I didn’t know he was going to go beyond that. A remarkable gesture. I told him it reminded me a little bit of Tim Duncan and his time with the Spurs. He made max money and then at key times in his career he took a little less so they could add a player here and there. The way the league works, the way the CBA works, it really kind of is up to the star player at key times to take a little haircut here and there. Whether that’s fair or not, I don’t know. But I do know that Tim knew it was dramatically helping his own career and KD understands the same thing. In the end, he’s going to make a fortune in his career. Already has and he hopefully is going to win more titles and that’s what he cares about.
Comparing Durant to Duncan is quite the compliment, and it’s not at all inaccurate.
On some level, Kerr might be selling him short. Duncan took his steepest pay cuts later on in his career. Sacrificing almost $10 million in a single season while still in your prime-most performance window is absolutely absurd.
Granted, Kevin Durant has the option to re-explore free agency next summer (player option), at which time he can sign the Early Bird max deal. And then, after that, in 2019, the Warriors will own his full Bird rights, allowing him to re-sign for a full-blown max. This could amount to a $20 million discount or so over the next two years—not insignificant, but temporary. Duncan shaved some money off the top again and again at a certain point in his career. Durant probably won’t be doing the same for the rest of his prime—well, he probably won’t.
We can’t rule out anything after his latest gesture.