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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Kevin Durant going to Golden State Warriors

In a Monday, May 30, 2016, file photo, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) reacts during the second half of Game 7 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)
By Ben Bolch Los Angeles Times

Kevin Durant has made his decision: The highly coveted free agent is joining the Golden State Warriors, forming the NBA’s latest super team alongside All-Stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

The move, which Durant announced on the Players’ Tribune website Monday morning, came as something of a surprise. Durant had widely been expected to stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the only NBA team he had known in his first nine seasons in the league.

Durant’s contract with the Warriors – the team that vanquished the Thunder with a breathless comeback in the Western Conference finals – was reported to be for two years and $54.3 million. The seven-time All-Star and four-time scoring champion wrote in the Players’ Tribune that the primary factor in his decision was his potential growth as a player.

“I am also at a point in my life,” Durant wrote, “where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth.”

Durant, who turns 28 in September, met with six teams – including the Thunder twice – over the weekend and received what may have been a pivotal call from Warriors executive Jerry West after Golden State had made its pitch. The Clippers were informed Saturday that they were no longer in the running, allowing them to start the process of re-signing as many of their own free agents as possible.

The San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat and Boston Celtics were also granted meetings with Durant.

One immediate impact of Durant’s decision is that the Warriors will likely part ways with small forward Harrison Barnes, who is expected to be offered a four-year, $95 million contract by the Dallas Mavericks. Golden State is also expected to trade center Andrew Bogut from the team that won the 2015 NBA title and was one victory away from a repeat last month before losing three consecutive games to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But pairing Durant with Curry, the reigning two-time MVP, as well as Thompson and Green should more than offset any corresponding moves the Warriors will make to clear the necessary salary cap space.

The loss of the 2014 NBA most valuable player is sure to sting not only the Thunder franchise but a city and a region that had so warmly embraced him.

“I’m from Washington, D.C., originally, but Oklahoma City truly raised me,” Durant wrote. “It taught me so much about family as well as what it means to be a man. There are no words to express what the organization and the community mean to me, and what they will represent in my life and in my heart forever. The memories and friendships are something that go far beyond the game. Those invaluable relationships are what made this deliberation so challenging.

”It really pains me to know that I will disappoint so many people with this choice, but I believe I am doing what I feel is the right thing at this point in my life and my playing career.“