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Stein: Kevin Durant already got paid

NBA: JAN 12 Nets at Bulls Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Will he or won’t he sit out the beginning of the 2022-23 season if he hasn’t been traded by the opening of camp? That may be the big question when looking at the Kevin Durant situation ... and the Nets future.

Now comes Marc Stein who reports that the day after KD requested a trade, he picked up a check (okay, more likely an electronic deposit) worth more than $10.7 million and will receive another $10.7 million six days into training camp, on October 1.

If it wasn’t sufficiently audacious that Durant is demanding a trade before playing a single game under the four-year, $194 million contract extension he signed in August 2021, there’s even more to consider. Most NBA players don’t start collecting their annual salaries until the season actually starts, but league sources tell me that Durant’s latest deal indeed includes the most aggressive early payment schedule allowed by league rules.

Stein further explains:

Translation: Durant’s contract calls for him to receive half of his $42,969,845 salary in Year 1 in two installments before the first week of training camp is complete. That computes to a total of $21,484,922.

The advance amount in these cases, as seen last season with Ben Simmons before Philadelphia traded Simmons to Brooklyn, is typically paid in two equal shares on July 1 and Oct. 1. In Durant’s case, that means he was due a check of $10,742,461 on the day after informing Brooklyn that he wants to be dealt.

So that means that if he decides to stay at home after October 1, he won’t have to worry about getting paid till midway through season, not far from the trade deadline about a month later. The remainder of his contract will be paid out bi-weekly. Bottom line: there’s no financial disincentive for Durant not to show up. He’ll have $21.5 million already in the bank. So any fines the Nets might assess him won’t get paid till after the season’s midpoint.

Durant may have learned a lesson from Simmons holdout last season. Simmons declined to participate in training camp and on October 1, the 76ers put his $8.3 million check in escrow, then began fining him $227,000 a game, the money withdrawn from the escrow account. Simmons, like Durant this season, had already received his first check. As Stein notes, Simmons ultimately lost $19+ million in fines and is in arbitration with the Sixers, contending his mental health issues exempted him from the fines.

Stein also suggests that his ultimatum to Tsai this past weekend is part of a hardline strategy to “sow discord” and get the Nets to accept less than full value:

There is a growing belief among rival teams that Durant knew when he issued that me-or-them ultimatum that Tsai had no intention of yielding to the request and firing Marks and Nash. One resultant theory that the Durant/Tsai meeting spawned is the idea KD has begun trying to manufacture as much behind-the-scenes discord as he can in hopes that it will lead the Nets to lower their asking price and trade him out of exasperation.

Might that also suggest that Durant, despite his professed love of the game, might not show for camp as part of his campaign to get traded? It certainly doesn’t seem like a stretch.