AP NEWS

Heat waiting after meeting with Durant

July 4, 2016

Kevin Durant’s free agency meetings are finished, and nowthe Heatand the rest of the NBA wait for his next move.

The former MVP and four-time scoring leader sat down with six teams over the past four days, including two hours with Pat Riley and Miami on Sunday. The Heat were the final outside team to pitch him, while the incumbent Thunder got one last shot Sunday evening to convince him to stay.

His choice will have overwhelming impact on the Heat’s upcoming season. With Durant, they instantly jump into the mix to win the title. Without him, they’ll proceed with a depleted version of last year’s roster.

Miami sent a delegation of Riley, owner Micky Arison, CEO Nick Arison, coach Erik Spoelstra, general manager Andy Elisburg and Alonzo Mourning for a presentation to Durant in the Hamptons.

Durant, 27, is a 6-foot-9, 240-pound small forward who is believed to be closer to 7-foot and stands as one of most unique weapons in the NBA. He averaged 28.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, five assists and 1.2 blocks per game last season, shooting 50.5 percent overall and 38.7 percent on 3-pointers.

That was good enough for a fifth-place finish in the MVP voting. Other than the 2014-15 season when he was hurt, Durant has been top five in MVP voting every year since 2009-10. He edged LeBron James for the award two seasons ago.

Of the six teams that earned an audience with Durant, it appeared as of Sunday five still had a chance. The Clippers conceded the ability to pay him anywhere close to market value when they re-signed back-up point guard Austin Rivers for three years at $35 million.

The Celtics, who brought Tom Brady to their Durant meeting Saturday, strengthened their chances by agreeing to a four-year deal with Al Horford. According to a report by The Vertical, Durant had been recruiting Horford to join him in Oklahoma City.

Golden State must feel confident in its position after offering Durant the opportunity to play on what would be arguably the most impressive roster ever assembled. The Warriors won a record 73 games last season and were within minutes of capturing their second straight championship before falling to Cleveland last month.

Golden State already has reigning back-to-back MVP Stephen Curry, plus All-Stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green and a robust supporting cast. Including the playoffs, that team went 170-38 over the past two seasons.

The Spurs were clandestine about their meeting with Durant on Saturday, with no details leaking other than LaMarcus Aldridge’s presence. Nonetheless, San Antonio is regarded as the most stable organization in the league and was a 67-win team last year before losing to Durant in the second round of the playoffs.

Then there’s option that has looked like the favorite since the beginning: Go back to Oklahoma City for at least one more season. The Thunder were on the brink of knocking out the Warriors in the playoffs, and teammate Russell Westbrook is under contract for another season. Durant’s been in OKC for nine years and has seemed mostly satisfied.

Once the Heat receiveword from Durant, they’ll move quickly to finish out their roster. They currently have seven players secured for 2016-17.

Dwyane Wade will be the first order of business, and he has made it clear he’s ready to take meetings with other teams this week if Miami doesn’t pay what he believes he deserves. If Durant isn’t coming, the Heat should be able to accommodate him.

To pay Wade and Durant something near market value, the team needs to clear salary cap space in a trade. Goran Dragic ($15.9 million next season) and Josh McRoberts ($5.8 million) are the highest-priced players the Heat can move.

The Heat also need to decidewhether to match the four-year, $50 million offer sheetTyler Johnson agreed to with the Nets, as reported by The Vertical. Johnson can sign it when the league-wide moratorium ends Thursday, then Miami has three days to match it.

Beyond that, all the Heat have left to offer other free agents are their $2.9 million exception and minimum contracts. There are proven veterans available to fill those spots, but quality players will only be interested in taking those deals if Miami looks like a contender.