And then, out of nowhere, a dynasty swooped in to bring chaos to the party.
Even for a franchise that has been punched in the gut more often than Rocky Balboa, this one packed a wallop. Afterward, it wasn’t even resignation or devastation that permeated the team, it was disbelief.
This makes you wonder:
Check back soon to find out how much money Minnesota is giving Bell.
The mystery team is unwrapped: Five-time All-Star center Al Horford has agreed to a four-year, $109 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, agent Jason Glushon told ESPN on Sunday.
Horford, 33, is leaving the Boston Celtics to join the Atlantic Division rival and fortify the Sixers as one of the NBA’s best defensive teams. The Sixers imagine a lineup with Horford at power forward alongside center Joel Embiid.
The commitment of Horford spells the end of Jimmy Butler‘s six-month run with the Sixers, league sources said. The Miami Heat are finalizing a sign-and-trade deal with Philadelphia to acquire Butler, league sources told ESPN.
Horford’s new contract includes $97 million in guaranteed money, and $12 million in bonuses tied to championships. The Celtics’ final offer did cover four years but with less in guaranteed money, league sources said.
Horford, whose suitors in free agency remained largely unknown until Sunday night, spent the past three seasons with the Celtics, with whom he declined his $30 million option for next season to become a free agent.
Horford spent the first nine years of his career with the Atlanta Hawks before signing with the Celtics in 2016. Last season, he averaged 13.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists. Horford started in all 68 games in which he appeared for Boston during the 2018-19 season.
Horford has been one of the East’s best two-way players with a unique ability to stretch the floor with his shooting. Horford shot 36% on 3-pointers last season and averaged 1.3 blocks a game.
Miami is sending guard Josh Richardson to Philadelphia as part of the deal, sources said Sunday.
The other parts of the deal were still being negotiated Sunday night.
The Dallas Mavericks had interest in acquiring Miami’s Goran Dragic in this three-team construction, but “they changed course,” Dragic’s agent, Bill Duffy, told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.
“In analyzing it, his salary was too high based on other things they’re trying to do,” Duffy said.
Dallas has been pursuing perimeter help in free agency, with an emphasis on tough defenders accomplished as 3-point shooters.
It has been an eventful two years for Butler. The No. 30 pick in the 2011 NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls developed into a three-time All-Star in the Windy City — only eventually to be traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves and reunited with his former coach, Tom Thibodeau, two summers ago.
Then, after getting Minnesota to its first playoff appearance without Kevin Garnett on the roster, Butler requested a trade last fall. After a chaotic few weeks, he eventually landed in Philadelphia in exchange for forwards Robert Covington and Dario Saric in November. He was later joined by Tobias Harris, whom the Sixers acquired just before February’s trade deadline, to create arguably the NBA’s most star-studded lineup.
Butler’s time in Philadelphia was rocky but, ultimately, he proved exactly what the Sixers hoped he would be in the playoffs: the kind of closer the team believed it was lacking after a disappointing loss in five games to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2018. Ultimately, though, Philadelphia fell just short of beating the eventual champion Toronto Raptors in the 2019 East semifinals thanks to Kawhi Leonard‘s insane four-bounce buzzer-beater in Game 7.
Butler, who turns 30 in September, averaged 18.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.9 steals in 65 combined games in Minnesota and Philadelphia this past season.
It is a remarkable chain of events for a franchise that general manager Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson found in disrepair less than four years ago.
Across town, the New York Knicks and owner Jim Dolan were not prepared to offer Durant a full max contract because of concerns over his recovery from the Achilles tendon injury that is likely to sideline him for all of next season, league sources told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski.
The players can officially sign their contracts starting Saturday. Irving will sign for four years and $141 million, sources said. Veteran guard Garrett Temple has also agreed to a two-year, $10 million deal with Brooklyn, agent Mark Bartelstein told ESPN.
After ESPN reported the planned deals, Caesars Sportsbook shortened the Nets’ odds to win the 2019-20 title to 18-1 from 25-1 on Sunday afternoon, following some bets on Brooklyn placed at the company’s New Jersey shops, a sportsbook manager said.
Durant declined his $31.5 million player option in June, officially setting him up for unrestricted free agency. He was eligible to remain with the Golden State Warriors on a five-year, $221 million deal, or sign a four-year, $164 million deal with another team.
Leading up to free agency, Durant and business partner Rich Kleiman had been in New York, where they mulled the star forward’s free-agency options. Durant had been considering a number of scenarios, including a return to Golden State, while the Knicks and the LA Clippers also were believed to be considerations beyond Brooklyn, sources had told ESPN.
He and Kleiman met with Warriors general manager Bob Myers on Sunday in New York and delivered him the news on the decision to leave Golden State, league sources told ESPN. The other teams were informed later in the day.
The Nets and all the teams who were in the Durant sweepstakes knew they likely would be without his services for the entire 2019-20 season. Durant ruptured his right Achilles on June 10, in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, a devastating injury that changed the entire dynamic of the NBA offseason. He underwent surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York on June 12.
The Achilles tear, suffered as he tried to drive past Toronto Raptorsbig man Serge Ibaka in the second quarter of Game 5 in Toronto, came after Durant had missed a month-plus of the playoffs with a right calf injury suffered May 8 against the Houston Rockets in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals. The Raptors game had marked his return to the court, but it proved short-lived, and Toronto won the Finals in Game 6 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.
Durant, who turns 31 in September, finished the postseason averaging 32.3 points per game on 51% shooting from the field, 44% shooting from 3-point range and 90% shooting from the free throw line. He’s the first player in NBA history to average 30 points per game on 50-40-90 shooting in a single postseason (minimum five games).
The second overall pick in the 2007 draft, Durant spent his first nine NBA seasons with Seattle/Oklahoma City, then signed with the Warriors in 2016 to give them a superteam that included fellow All-Stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
Durant helped lead Golden State to NBA titles in 2017 and ’18, winning Finals MVP both times. He’s a 10-time All-Star (and was named All-Star Game MVP in 2012 and ’19) and six-time first-team All-NBA honoree, and also won Rookie of the Year in 2007-08 and league MVP in 2013-14. He has led the NBA in scoring four times, and his current 27 PPG average ranks sixth all time.
A year ago, it seemed as though Irving would be in Boston for the long term.
In a season-ticket holder meeting in October, he declared: “If you’ll have me, I’ll re-sign.” Around the same time, he made a commercial with his father, Drederick, inside an empty TD Garden, and spoke of ensuring no one else ever would wear No. 11 for the Celtics.
After a disappointing season for the Celtics, though, things are much different now. Individually, Irving had one of the best seasons of his career, and was a deserving second-team All-NBA selection. Boston, however, was not nearly as good as the lofty preseason expectations for the franchise, and flamed out in five games in the second round of the playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks — with Irving going a combined 21-for-65 in the final three games of that series (all losses).
Along the way, he got into repeated public back-and-forths with the team’s younger players, and also announced after a victory over the Raptors in January that he’d made up with James — a relationship that wasn’t in a good place when Irving requested a trade away from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017. And his free agency officially became a hot-button topic Feb. 1 at Madison Square Garden, when he announced, “Ask me July 1,” when asked whether he’d stay in Boston, later adding, “I don’t owe anybody s—.”
In 67 games last season for Boston, Irving, 27, averaged 23.8 points, along with career highs of 5.0 rebounds and 6.9 assists.
After 10 seasons with the Clippers, Jordan signed a one-year, $22.9 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks last offseason. The center made 50 starts for Dallas, averaging 11.0 points and 13.7 rebounds before being dealt to the Knicks in late January as part of the Kristaps Porzingis blockbuster.
New York convinced Jordan not to seek a buyout after the trade, hoping he could mentor some of the team’s younger big men, notably Mitchell Robinson. Jordan saw his playing time dwindle as the Knicks went with younger lineups, and he was a DNP-coach’s decision in the team’s final seven games.
Jordan, who turns 31 on July 21, acknowledged it was “strange” not to be a regular but called the decision mutual. And while New York endured another playoff-less season, going a league-worst 17-65, the unrestricted free agent said he liked the franchise’s direction.
“I love it here,” Jordan told the New York Post late in the season. “I love what [first-year coach David Fizdale] is doing here. Obviously there’s a lot of things that these guys want to do to get better, to better the organization. We’ll see what happens.”
An 11-year veteran and three-time All-NBA player, Jordan holds career averages of 9.6 points, 10.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. His 66.9 field goal percentage ranks first in the NBA among active players.
The New York Knicks were not prepared to offer Kevin Durant the same four-year, $164 million contract he eventually committed to with the Brooklyn Nets, due to concerns over his recovery from the Achilles injury, league sources told ESPN.
Coming off such a catastrophic injury, Durant was only interested in maximum contract offers. With New York unwilling to take that risk, the Knicks front office instead flew to Los Angeles to meet with a secure a commitment from Julius Randle on a 3-year, $63 million deal.
Durant had long been a focus for the Knicks, who made several trades this year to secure the requisite salary cap space to sign him and another superstar. However their thinking changed after Durant’s injury, which is likely to keep him out all of next season.
The parties never discussed financial terms of a possible deal, but Durant wouldn’t have considered an offer below the full max, which Brooklyn, Golden State and the LA Clippers offered, league sources said.
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