Free agency: The waiting for Kawhi continues
The waiting for Kawhi Leonard's decision continues.
And it might last for a few days.
Monday marked the first full day of National Basketball Association free agency — roughly US$2.5 billion in contract commitments were made in the first six hours that followed the official beginning — and there's still many unanswered questions. Leonard is the biggest domino yet to fall, and as would be expected the NBA Finals MVP offered no hints if he's decided to stay with Toronto or leave.
"We've got a visit with Kawhi here in the next day or so," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.
It's believed that the Raptors will get the last meeting, with Leonard also likely to talk with the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers — possibly among others — before making up his mind.
Most of the other biggest-name free agents appear to have picked their new homes — or will be staying in their current ones. The biggest contract left, more than likely, is the US$190-million, five-year pact that Klay Thompson is believed to be getting from the Golden State Warriors, although neither side indicated that the agreement was finalized on Sunday night.
Even with Thompson staying, the five-time reigning Western Conference champions Warriors will be very different next season. They lost Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets, then reportedly traded Andre Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies late on Sunday night. Durant was the finals MVP when Golden State won its 2017 and 2018 titles. Iguodala was finals MVP when the Warriors were champions in 2015.
And the Warriors will also welcome point guard D'Angelo Russell, set to arrive from Brooklyn on a four-year, US$117-million contract, ESPN said, citing league sources.
No deals can become final until Saturday, when the National Basketball Association's annual moratorium ends. For some teams, the extra time to work through details seems necessary.
"Where da cheesesteaks?" asked Miami's Josh Richardson, after the Heat agreed to send him to Philadelphia in what was shaping up as a complex three-team deal that also included Dallas — and is to bring Jimmy Butler to Miami.
The Heat and Mavericks discussed multiple permutations of a deal, and hours after thinking something was done were still unable to actually close on something. It doesn't mean the Butler deal is dead, especially because of all the moves that were made in reaction to his joining Miami. But the Heat clearly still have some more work to do in order to make everything work.
The 76ers, with the belief they'll be signing-and-trading Butler, moved quickly to add Al Horford from Boston on a four-year deal that could be worth as much as US$109 million. His was one of at least 11 deals worth at least US$100 million agreed to on Sunday, one of the wildest spending days in league history.
"From the trade to the Sixers in February, through the regular season and playoffs and now on to free agency, this contract is a culmination of so much in my life and basketball career," Philadelphia's Tobias Harris wrote in an essay published on ESPN.com after he agreed to a five-year, US$180 million contract. "It's also a new beginning."
Plenty of new beginnings are still coming: There are still no fewer than 160 free agents available for the taking, which means the spending by the time this summer is over on new deals should easily top the US$4-billion mark.
Earlier, Durant, the 30-year-old star forward, made his announcement on social media moments after the start of the NBA's free agency period, saying he will sign a maximum-level deal with the Nets.
Durant commands top dollar despite suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in Game 5 of this year's finals, and is expected to miss all of the 2019-20 season.
"Kevin Durant has confirmed he will sign a max deal with the Brooklyn Nets," said a post on the Instagram and Twitter accounts of The Boardroom, his company-owned sports-business network.
A max deal for Durant would be worth some US$164 million over four years. The Warriors could have offered him US$221 million over five years to stay.
Multiple US media outlets reported that Celtics playmaker Kyrie Irving would be joining Durant in Brooklyn on a four-year deal worth US$141 million.
It could give the Nets a formidable duo once Durant returns from an upcoming year of rehabilitation, provided Durant can regain the form that helped power the Warriors to the 2017 and 2018 NBA crowns.
Durant had the Warriors looking like champions again this year before a right calf injury sidelined him. He missed nine games before returning in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against Toronto. He scored 11 points in 12 minutes before suffering the ruptured tendon that required surgery two days later.
Durant and Irving were both reported to be targets of the New York Knicks — who were coming off a league-worst 17-65 season and had cleared salary cap space to sign proven talent to join their inexperienced squad.
The Knicks — apparently unwilling to offer Durant a maximum deal because of his injury — were reported to have instead agreed to terms with Julius Randle of New Orleans and Minnesota's Taj Gibson.
With Irving headed out of Boston, the Celtics were poised to welcome point guard Kemba Walker — a three-time All-Star who is coming off one of the best seasons of his career for the Charlotte Hornets with averages of 25.6 points, 5.9 assists and 4.4 rebounds.
The Mavericks said they had agreed with restricted free agent Kristaps Porzingis on a five-year, US$158.253-million maximum salary contract — the largest in the 39-year history of the Dallas club.
The 23-year-old Latvian was acquired by the Mavericks from the Knicks in a blockbuster seven-player trade on January 31.
He was still recovering from surgery to repair a torn left knee ligament and hasn't played since February 6, 2018.