Durant opts out of Warriors deal for NBA free agency: report

Durant has declined a $31.5 million option for next season. (AFP)
Updated 26 June 2019

Durant opts out of Warriors deal for NBA free agency: report

  • The 30-year-old forward is looking at missing the 2019-20 NBA season while rehabilitating

SAN FRANCISCO: Golden State Warriors star forward Kevin Durant has declined a $31.5 million option for next season and will become an unrestricted NBA free agent, ESPN reported Wednesday.

Durant, the 2017 and 2018 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player and 2014 NBA MVP, ruptured his right Achilles tendon in the second quarter of game five of the NBA Finals earlier this month and underwent surgery to repair the injury.

The 30-year-old forward is looking at missing the 2019-20 NBA season while rehabilitating and using the following campaign to rebuild to peak form, a prospect that could scare off some suitors who hoped for more instant returns from a big-money deal for one of the NBA's biggest talents.

Durant averaged 26.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.1 blocked shots a game for the Warriors this season and boosted his production to 32.3 points and 7.7 rebounds a game in the playoffs until suffering a right calf injury and missing nine games before his brief NBA Finals comeback.

Durant is still expected to have several offers when NBA free agency opens Sunday. While terms of deals can be completed early, NBA rules mandate no new contracts can be signed until July 6, leaving a week of various reports of agreements to terms but nothing teams can confirm until signings are complete.

Boston's Kyrie Irving, Toronto's Kawhi Leonard and Golden State guard Klay Thompson are expected to be among the other top free agents on offer when talks begin, although Thompson suffered a torn left knee ligament in game six of the NBA Finals and will also miss significant time next season.

The New York Knicks, among the leaders in money to spend under NBA salary cap rules, are expected to make a pitch for Durant, whose agent is in New York ready for offers.


Champions League ready to resume, at long last

Robert Lewandowski, left, and Bayern Munich during their Marseille friendly ahead of the Champions League last 16 2nd leg against Chelsea. (Files/AFP)
Updated 03 August 2020

Champions League ready to resume, at long last

  • UEFA ‘confident’ no more delays despite virus cases among players at Real Madrid and Sevilla

PARIS: After an enforced hiatus of almost five months, the UEFA Champions League and Europa League resume this week in order to clear up the last remaining business in a troubled season.

Both competitions were frozen in March as the coronavirus pandemic took hold across the continent, and while European football’s governing body acted swiftly to move Euro 2020 back a year, for a long time it was unclear how it would manage to complete its two landmark club competitions.
In the end the solution was to set up two mini tournaments bringing all teams together in one place from the quarterfinals onwards, with all ties being decided in one-off matches behind closed doors.
And so the Champions League will move to Lisbon for the “Final Eight” starting on Aug. 12 and ending with the final at Benfica’s Estadio da Luz on Aug. 23.
The Europa League, meanwhile, will be played to a conclusion at a series of venues in western Germany, with the last eight beginning on Aug. 10 and the final in Cologne on Aug. 21.
“I believed it from the first moment,” said the UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin recently when asked if he ever doubted it would be possible to play the tournaments to a conclusion. “You should always be optimistic, and if something like this crisis happens, you must have a plan ready. “At the present time, we will be playing matches without spectators until further notice. We will not take any risks.”
There is, though, no question of further changes being made to the formats despite concerns about an increase in Covid-19 cases in and around Lisbon, and more recent worries in Germany about a rise in cases there.
UEFA also recently insisted it was “confident” there would be no more delays despite cases of coronavirus emerging among players at Real Madrid and Sevilla. It is, in any case, now or never.
Indeed, the preliminary round of next season’s Champions League begins next Saturday, the same day Bayern Munich entertain Chelsea and Napoli visit Barcelona in their outstanding last 16 second legs.
Before that, Manchester City defend a 2-1 first-leg lead at home against Real on Friday as Pep Guardiola’s side target Champions League glory on the back of the club’s success at getting a two-year ban from the competition overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The winner of that tie will face Juventus or Lyon in the quarterfinals in Lisbon.
It is the Europa League which is first up, though, with the last 16 being completed on Wednesday and Thursday.
Two ties — Inter Milan against Getafe and Sevilla against Roma — will go ahead as one-off ties in Germany as the first legs were never played.
Six second legs will also be played with the winners heading to Germany for the last eight.
Among the ties to be completed is Manchester United’s against Austrian side LASK, which will be a formality for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team after they won 5-0 in the first leg in March.
Their form since the Premier League resumed in mid-June has been excellent and they have already sealed a place in the 2020-21 Champions League, but now they want to finish this never-ending season with a trophy.
“Now our focus is on the Europa League because this is a really good trophy and we want to win,” Bruno Fernandes told MUTV.
“I came to Manchester to win trophies. We need to play every game to win. If we go into the Europa League and win every game, we know we’ll win the trophy.”
United, Europa League winners in 2017, could yet find themselves facing Premier League rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers in the semifinals in Cologne on Aug. 16 should both teams get there.
Wolves entertain Greek champions Olympiakos on Thursday having drawn 1-1 in the first leg of their last-16 tie.
Their campaign started more than a year ago now, with a 2-0 win over Northern Irish side Crusaders in the second qualifying round on July 25, 2019.
Extending it by another couple of weeks would do them no harm.