The New York Knicks and free agent big man Julius Randle agreed to a three-year, $63 million deal on Sunday, but the 2019 free agency season might better be remembered as the year the Knicks were reluctant to pay Kevin Durant.
ESPN reported that the Knicks would not offer Durant — a 10-time All-Star and four-time scoring champion who also won Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards — the four-year, $164 million contract he agreed to with the Brooklyn Nets over worries about the torn Achilles he suffered in the NBA Finals.
Durant, who announced his plans to join the Nets on Sunday night, is expected to miss the 2019-20 season as he recovers and goes through rehabilitation. He turns 31 in September.
The Knicks had cleared salary cap space for the potential signing of Durant, but their interest apparently diminished once he was injured. ESPN, citing league sources, said the Knicks and Durant never discussed financial terms, but it was known Durant wouldn’t have considered anything below a max deal.
Instead, the Knicks pursued Randle, who spent the 2018-19 season with the New Orleans Pelicans. He declined his $9 million player option to become a free agent.
The Los Angeles Lakers selected Randle with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. He spent four seasons with the Lakers before signing a free agent deal with New Orleans, where he enjoyed a breakout season.
The 24-year-old averaged a career-high 21.4 points per game with 8.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists. In 311 career games (231 starts), he’s averaged 15.4 points.
Meanwhile, ESPN reports the Knicks also agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal with former Minnesota Timberwolves big man Taj Gibson.
Gibson, 34, averaged 10.8 points and 6.5 rebounds in 70 games last season.
Even with those additions, the Knicks still have a projected $41 million in cap space to pursue additional free agents, according to ESPN.