Despite Durant playing at an MVP-caliber level and the Thunder, until recently, playing like the elite team that they’ve always been when healthy, the Golden State Warriors’ dominance has mostly eliminated the non-stop Durant speculation we thought would define the 2015-16 campaign. His support team has plenty to do with that, as his agent, Rich Kleiman of Roc Nation Sports, and manager, Charlie Bell, have kept a tight and deliberate circle while managing to keep the information leaks to a minimum.
“I’m really not a guy for all the attention, and I know the attention is on me and the spotlight is on me as far as what’s going to happen and what the future holds,” he said. “But I put myself in a position where I worked as hard as I can (and) people respect my game and really that’s what matters to me. My teammates, my peers, the fans of the game (who) respect how I play, and all that stuff comes with it, so I just try to look at it that way. “I knew it was coming, you know? I wouldn’t be who I was if I didn’t know this stuff was coming, so it’s just a part of it man. I just try to stay around people who really just care about me as a man, and as a basketball player, (people) who want me happy and my friends that I love every single day.”
So what is important to Durant in terms of a free agent destination? “When you get an opportunity to choose your environment, you want to be stable, you always want to have good people around you, and you always want to work with great people,” he said. “And that’s how it is in Oklahoma City. Just great people, great working environment, great living. “Sometimes with your spirit and your energy, you can dictate your environment for yourself, and I think I have that ability to improve wherever I go.
Durant has made abundantly clear his disdain for being second. Not only would Durant be second to Curry on the Warriors, he'd rank behind every other guy who has already planted the championship flag for the organization. It's not even so much that Durant's personal brand would suffer from being a castmate; it's just such a cop-out for an all-time great to shrug and say, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Even with as much of the ball as Russell Westbrook gets for the Thunder now, Durant isn't No. 2 in OKC. Durant is secure in his standing, which is why he is so comfortable wanting the best for Westbrook—right down to contorting his body with each Westbrook shot late in the All-Star Game in Toronto, an apparent attempt to will that MVP trophy into Westbrook's hands.
Most of the two-dozen or so team executives I polled over the past two weeks on the Durant-Warriors possibility described it as a no-brainer ("Bench smench," texted one GM), but there is some division within the Warriors, and you can understand why. They might have the best basketball team ever assembled! How can you shake that up? They are obliterating victims by about 13 points per 100 possessions. Unless the league adds a 4-point shot or lengthens the game, it is almost literally impossible to get any better. And the Warriors have already been proven right choosing continuity over a sweet-shooting shiny object in Kevin Love.
Signing Durant would carry risk, especially with Festus Ezeli's future unclear after another knee surgery. Signing Durant with cap room would cost Golden State Harrison Barnes, and at least two of Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Andrew Bogut and Ezeli. The Warriors would have to offload two of those guys into someone else's cap space, and they are privately worried they might have to attach one or even two future first-round picks to grease the wheels.
Whether Durant is up for being just another go-to option on Curry's team is unclear. Durant has said nothing of substance about his free agency, and his team at Roc Nation has been diligent in keeping everything within a tiny circle of confidantes.
“I know what our goal is, to try to go after Kevin, which is not a bad situation. But my ultimate goal is this year. I ain’t trying to waste a season,” Wall recently told The Vertical. “I’m in my sixth year. Time don’t wait for nobody and I’ve dealt with it my first three years of not being in the playoffs. I know how it feels to have a longer summer, a longer vacation. I don’t want that. I want to be seen on TV. I know the city wants to see that. And as a point guard, you get known as being a winner in this league, not being a loser. And that’s something I never want to do. Since I’ve been in the playoffs, I want to finish my career making the playoffs every single year if I have the opportunity.”
The Lakers’ plan, one that many around the league still see as far-fetched, is to finally land a top-tier free agent who can turn the franchise around. But unless Kevin Durant or a prospective free agent like him shocks the world and heads for Laker Land with a few of his superstar pals, the immediate future might very well be as bleak as the recent past. “I think that what we offered (the many free agents who passed on the Lakers in recent years) didn’t match where they were in their careers or what they were looking for,” Jeanie said. “Hopefully now, our story and what we have to present will be enticing to whoever they have targeted in terms of free agency to bring here. But again, I don’t make the decisions about the vision of basketball.”
End of dream sequence begins ... now, courtesy of Yahoo! Sports NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski on FOX Sports Radio (listen to full clip here): "The Lakers are not front-runners for Kevin Durant, he wants to win a championship. If he leaves Oklahoma, he may end up staying there and I've written that."
"Golden State is a team that is worrisome for Oklahoma City -- that's a team that has Kevin Durant's attention. Kevin Durant wants to win a championship right away and either he wants to do that in Oklahoma City with the group they have or he's going to go somewhere where he can win a title right away.
"He's at a point in his career where he cant wait two or three years and hope that it happens. I think part of his criteria, sources tell me, will be, 'Is that team good enough to beat Golden State with me on it? Or is it Golden State? Or can I stay in Oklahoma and continue to be able to do that and compete for a championship?"
Then there's that Gainesville connection again. The Wizards will pursue Durant, and though the idea is to sign both Durant and guard Bradley Beal, very little has gone right in Washington this year and that could lead to an utter tear-down. Beal is a restricted free agent and spent a year in Florida, so Washington could match offers to keep him, but his injury history is frightening — perhaps even for the Wizards themselves. Still, his talent could make him worth a gamble for a team like Orlando.
There’s a new scenario making the rounds for free-agent-to-be Kevin Durant: sign a two-year deal with Oklahoma City with an opt-out after one season. That way, Durant, who can become a free agent this summer, could be in position to see where All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook is headed. Westbrook became just the second back-to-back All-Star Game MVP in the game’s history — and the first solo back-to-back winner — Sunday night with a 31-point, eight-rebound, five-assist performance to help the West defeat the East 196-173.
In Toronto with ESPN Radio, Kevin Durant addressed the possibility of signing a short-term contract this summer to, in essence, delay his free agency one year and put himself on the same track with teammate Russell Westbrook. "Actually that's probably one of the first times I've heard that one, but, no , I haven't really thought about it, man. I'm just, with [coming back from] injury and just getting back to playing again, I haven't thought about contracts or free agency or none of that stuff at all. ... I really haven't thought about that one. I guess I have to."
In an interview with USA Today, Warriors forward Draymond Green said that while he'll talk to Durant plenty this weekend, he doesn't plan to pitch him on joining the Warriors. “He's third in the West right now with an incredible record,” Green said. “It obviously (flies) under the radar because we've lost four and San Antonio has lost eight. But I think they're like 40-14 or something like that, that's an incredible record. So he's not trying to recruit us, and we're not trying to recruit him.
"I've been surprised," Durant said. "First of all, I'm not as known around the world as LeBron James is. I'm sure normal people who don't even watch the game of basketball would ask him about his free agency, whereas for me he started it off with being the first guy and one of the big free agents. Now it's kind of like, 'all right, with me all right let's move on.' "So it feels like it's a little easier for me because he took all the lumps and the bruises for us all. So it's a little easier for me. But being in Oklahoma City, man, we don't have a lot of people that come cover us. But when we got to New York and L.A. I hear a few questions here and there. But for the most part, it's been quiet and it's definitely been easier that way."
Durant was born in Washington, went to high school in Maryland and has a Maryland tattoo on his upper back. He also went to his share of Wizards games as a child, including Michael Jordan’s last game in Washington. The Wizards have been preparing behind the scenes for a serious sales pitch to persuade Durant to join them, sources told Yahoo Sports.
But regardless of his free-agency decision, Durant says he will “always be a part” of Washington. “That’s who made me who I am,” Durant said. “I walked those streets. I took that subway to the MCI Center, back when it was the MCI Center where the Washington Wizards played and the [WNBA’s] Mystics [played]. I’m always going to be a part of that community no matter what. That’s where I grew up. That’s where I honed my skills. That’s where I became a man.”
"I've been surprised," Durant said. "First of all, I'm not as known around the world as LeBron James is. I'm sure normal people who don't even watch the game of basketball would ask him about his free agency, whereas for me he started it off with being the first guy and one of the big free agents. Now it's kind of like, 'all right, with me all right let's move on.' So it feels like it's a little easier for me because he took all the lumps and the bruises for us all. So it's a little easier for me. But being in Oklahoma City, man, we don't have a lot of people that come cover us. But when we got to New York and L.A. I hear a few questions here and there. But for the most part, it's been queit and it's definitely been easier that way."
Durant has been linked to several teams if he decides to leave the Thunder, including the Warriors, Lakers, Knicks and his hometown Wizards. He said the distraction hasn’t been huge. “It’s great to feel wanted,’’ Durant said. “I put myself in a position where I play basketball at a high level. You hear so many rumors. It’s cool to hear this team, that team wants you. That’s what you want as a player – for everybody to respect you and admire how you play basketball. “[At] the same time, it’s being the best for my teammates. I’m the big brother and leader of that team. It’s tough, but also cool you know you’re an elite level and everyone’s talking about your future.’’
Marc Stein: In Toronto with ESPN Radio, Kevin Durant addressed the possibility of signing a short-term contract this summer to, in essence, delay his free agency one year and put himself on the same track with teammate Russell Westbrook. "Actually that's probably one of the first times I've heard that one, but, no , I haven't really thought about it, man. I'm just, with [coming back from] injury and just getting back to playing again, I haven't thought about contracts or free agency or none of that stuff at all. ... I really haven't thought about that one. I guess I have to."
Sirius XM NBA: #Thunder Forward @Kevin Durant on his upcoming free agency: "I haven't really thought about it" #NBAAllStarTO bit.ly/1KfFqGk
An NBA general manager reportedly believes Kevin Durant will sign with the Warriors. That general manager, unless it was Bob Myers in the first place, has company. Chris Broussard of ESPN on Durant: There are people in Golden State that think they’re getting him. People in management, and I think some players, too.
With or without Gasol, Memphis’ mandate will be unchanged: make the playoffs. They are working to keep Conley in summer free agency, with Memphis planning to be one more contender with two stars that will try to persuade Kevin Durant to make it a Big Three, league sources said. Durant’s the longest of long shots in summer, but the short-term trade deadline directives are unchanged: The Grizzlies are determined to use the trade deadline to better the roster for a playoff push.
New York faces long odds to land Durant to begin with. But they took a hit after Derek Fisher was fired, league sources say. As noted here previously, Fisher was going to be a factor in Durant's free agency this summer. But hiring Brooks could get Durant's attention.
Golden State’s 46-4 record is tied for the best mark in league history through 50 games. With three All-Stars in Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, Golden State has youth and plays an attractive brand of unselfish basketball that fits Durant. The Warriors play in front of an intimidating Oracle Arena crowd and are expected to debut a new San Francisco arena in 2019. Durant has quietly done his due diligence on the Bay Area, too, sources told Yahoo Sports.
When it comes to free agency, Durant said he will lean most on his Roc Nation agent Rich Kleiman and personal manager Charlie Bell. Regarding Jay Z, Durant told Yahoo Sports: “He’s just the big homey. That’s how it is. I got two people I talk to and figure it out with every day. They give support.”
“It’s hard for it not to enter your mind,” said Durant, 27, about free agency. “There’s a lot of uncertainty to what’s going on because I haven’t really thought that far. I just try to focus on playing basketball, man. When I lock in I try to get better every single day. I’m trying to come in and help my teammates every single day. That’s what my thought process is always focused on."
“Once that time comes and I make that decision, I will sit down and talk to my closest friends and family and try to figure it out. Right now, I’m trying to be the best basketball player I can be every single day.”
“There’s a lot of uncertainty that’s going on, because I haven’t really thought that far,” Durant said. “I’m just trying to focus on playing basketball. I’m locked in on trying to be better every single day and trying to come in and help my teammates every single day. I think that’s what my thought process is always focused on. “Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision. I’ll sit down and talk to my closest friends and family and figure it out, but right now, I’m just trying to be the best basketball player I can be every single day. I have to be at a high level to lead every day at practices, shootarounds and games, and that’s a tough task. I can’t focus on anything else, other than that.”
Anthony Slater: Steve Kerr on the KD to Warriors rumor: "I don't know why anybody would talk about anything other than the fact that we're 45-4."
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, if Kevin Durant chooses to leave the Thunder in free agency, the Warriors are the "significant frontrunners to sign him." "If you were a player would you want to join our team?" was Bogut's response to SiriusXM NBA Radio's Frank Isola and Brian Scalabrine regarding the report. "Who knows where it's coming from -- probably a mix of his agent, creating whatever it is from that aspect."
"We're not too worried about it," Bogut explained. "Funnier things have happened in this league, so I definitely wouldn't be shocked if something like that happened."
But with Howard widely expected to demand the max, it puts the Rockets in quite the quandary. They would clearly prefer to do a more reasonable deal to keep him, one that doesn’t have him making approximately $41.5 million at the age of 35 in his 17th season (2020-21) – especially if they have a chance at landing Kevin Durant. The 27-year-old Oklahoma City Thunder star is the biggest fish in the free agency sea this summer, and the Rockets – who traded for his pal and former Thunder sixth man, Harden, in Oct. 2012 – are expected to make a serious run at the former MVP. They are slated to have approximately $45.5 million in salary cap space, meaning something has to give if there’s any hope of a Harden-Howard-Durant union in the works.
The Rockets' grand plan, sources said this week, remains making an all-out pursuit in free agency this summer for Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant. Rockets officials have long believed privately that they will have as good a chance as any team to steal Durant away from the Thunder in the offseason because of his strong relationship with his former teammate, Harden, and the room Houston has to pay Durant max-contract money while also re-signing Howard.
Free agency chatter has ramped back up in the last week, people linking you to the Lakers, to the Warriors. Any response to those rumors? Durant: "I blame it on you, man (laughs). Before you had a story out, nothing was happening and it was cool (referring to this story). Now I guess you could say it's ramped up. That's a part of it. That's a part of this process. Everyone has to do their job. Of course the fans want to know what's going on, but I can't control that. I can't control any of that. Just gotta work hard every single day, focus on what's in front of me and not worry about what's gonna happen down the line. All that stuff I can't control. Like I said, when that time comes we'll talk about it, but for right now, I'm 100 percent committed and locked in on being the best team and player I can be and helping my team try to get to a championship."
Is it a surprise that the media has you linked to a team like the Warriors that's already had success and has a championship? Durant: "I don't know. I don't know. I try to not even think about that. It's a certain amount of teams, don't matter if it's a free agent now or 20 years down the line will be linked with those type of teams. I try not to worry about that. I know the position I'm in and I knew the position I'd be in before the season started. I knew that that stuff was coming and I prepared for it early on. Just try to worry about what I can control and that's coming out and working hard every single day. Everything else that's out of my control is not of my concern. Like I said, during the summer time, we'll talk about that."
I won't make you say his name, but there are rumors your team might pursue a certain star free agent. You guys are 41-4, or 42-4, or whatever. Do you hear those rumors and think, "Wait a second. How much better could we possibly get? Why change anything?" Not in those terms. I hear that stuff, and it's human nature to be interested in it. I'm very comfortable with our team, and obviously being 44-4.
There is nothing contained in this commentary to suggest anything of substance from Durant’s side or even Westbrook’s side. This commentary is simply the dream scenario from the L.A. Lakers, framed solely through the prism of the Lakers. A league source chuckled at the idea, saying if Durant and Westbrook wanted to remain together, they’d earn more staying right where they are.
The same source said that while Durant may explore his free agent options in 2016, there is a growing sense that Durant may be more open to signing a one-and-one deal, where he takes one fully guaranteed year and a player option year and remains in Oklahoma City for one more year. Such a deal ties his own free agency to Westbrook’s in 2017 when the salary cap goes up again.
The Golden State Warriors’ plan of pursuit predates their 2015 championship run, a bold plot to declare the futility of resistance. It isn’t only that the NBA champions are determined to recruit Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant. The truth is that they’re the most intriguing destination to him. If Durant leaves the Thunder, the Warriors are the significant frontrunners to sign him, league sources told The Vertical.
Make no mistake: Durant isn’t close to gone in Oklahoma City – no decision, no leaning, sources said – but the real threats on the summer market are beginning to reveal themselves. Durant is determined to win – to be an immediate championship contender at 27 years old – and that keeps bringing him back to the Warriors should he make the decision to leave Oklahoma City.
Perhaps no Warriors player would sacrifice so much on a personal level, yet Green is unflinching in his support of signing Durant, league sources told The Vertical. He’s expected to be a tenacious recruiter of Durant for the Warriors’ contingent. There are several moves the Warriors can make to maneuver the roster to clear a maximum salary slot for Durant. To have the chance to incorporate a superstar in full sprint onto the NBA’s best team, well, it’s practically unprecedented.
Outside of those well-known suitors – Washington, Houston and Miami – there’s another California team determined to make a bid for Durant, league sources tell The Vertical: The Los Angeles Clippers. If the opportunity comes to move Blake Griffin and replace him with Durant, the Clippers won’t hesitate, sources said.
Although there will be plenty of teams reaching out to Durant this summer, the Lakers may have an advantage. Stephen A. Smith made an appearance on ESPN 710's Mason and Ireland on Friday and explained why the Lakers may be in an excellent position to bring in Durant in free agency:
"Keep in mind this, one of the biggest reasons I'm told, that Kevin Durant may have the Lakers at the top of his list, is because the Lakers have been led to believe, by whom specifically I do not know, but the Lakers have been led to believe that it is a very good chance that the following year Russell Westbrook is coming."
Stephen A. Smith: "They love each other, and they love being on the same team with one another. And if it so happens to be in the L.A. market, all the better. I'm not saying it is done. (...) It's a big possibility."
Stephen A. Smith: "Make no mistake about it, Russell Westbrook doesn't have a problem being in L.A."
That's impossible to answer today, but some executives around the league expect the Knicks to at least get an audience with Durant. The 2013-14 MVP has a strong relationship with Carmelo Anthony and head coach Derek Fisher. As noted here, a league source familiar with Durant's thinking said that Fisher's presence "will factor in" to the star forward's decision. Durant also recently spoke highly of Kristaps Porzingis, though how he, Anthony and Porzingis fit together is another question altogether.
“They link everybody with New York City. It’s one of the greatest cities in the world. It’s not a bad thing. It’s a great city. Great place to visit, great place to live, I’m sure. But they link everybody, not just me,’’ Durant said after the Thunder’s shootaround at the Garden.
“I spent some nice time up here playing basketball in New York City. Some of the most memorable times in my life was coming up here, playing outside, just getting the pure love of the game up here. I remember that, always going to remember that the rest of my life and tell my kids about that when I get older. I come from Maryland. We know how big basketball is here. Of course I enjoy playing here and the Garden. Every movie you watch, you had a scene playing basketball in the Garden. Everything reverts back to being in the Garden, whether [it’s] musicians, basketball players. To play here is just a blessing.’’
Durant was asked if the market size matters and gave his lone answer that could bode well for OKC. “It’s not different,’’ Durant said. “So many games on TV nowadays. Social media gives the game and different players exposure where you are. It really doesn’t better. It’s never been about that for me. It’s been about the game and about being a basketball player first.’’
Much has changed since the start of the season. The idea of Durant signing a one-year opt-out deal with the Thunder has gained traction, sending him to the 2017 market with Russell Westbrook. The Warriors and Spurs have hit supernova levels of play, stealing away a bulk of the league's headlines and interest. And the teams below them are searching for a current identity, not a long-term pipedream.
His people have remained quiet. And even when Durant has been quoted, like in Houston in early November or Brooklyn earlier this week, the comments came from innocuous pregame questions about his brief thoughts on the home team. He likes this guy's game. He likes this team's arena.
ESPN.com reported this past Saturday that despite the fact the Nets, who could have about $40 million in cap space, appear to be long shots to land Durant over the summer, rival agents insist they’re in the mix.
Chris Broussard of ESPN: "When you talk to some executives, a name that has been thrown will shock people – Golden State."
Chris Broussard of ESPN: "There are those around the league that think Golden State is a possibility."
Anthony Slater: Three days in Los Angeles, four media availabilities, zero free agency questions for Kevin Durant. Hasn't faced any in awhile.
It's not realistic to think Colangelo's familiarity with Thunder star Kevin Durant via USA Basketball would make a player of Durant's caliber choose the Sixers when he becomes a free agent next summer. But he could help convince a second-tier guy to come here.
There were reports earlier this year that the Miami Heat, like many teams across the league, had lined up their cap situation to make a run at Kevin Durant in free agency this upcoming offseason. But during Durant's media sessions in Miami the past couple days, local reporters didn't even bring up the topic. Besides his return to Washington D.C. last month, Durant really hasn't faced much free agency talk yet this season.
"I don’t think he’s thinking about it right now. I think for him it’s just more trying to get healthy, get back on the court and play basketball. When you come off an injury and you feel like you’ve done everything you have to do to rehab and get back on the court and then you have another freak injury like that, that right there can be a little bit frustrating by itself. I don’t think he’s worried about it, as a matter of fact I know he’s not worried about the free agency coming up."
But he believes that Durant is happy with his home team now. "Come on, man. He just got into the Hall of Fame," Anthony said. "He brought this team here— he didn’t bring this team here, but he’s a big part of Oklahoma as a whole. Not just from a basketball standpoint, from an economic standpoint, business standpoint – he’s a major part of what goes on out here. "I think nowadays with the way that this social media is, I don’t think you have to be in a major market to get those opportunities. The way the TV deal is, you’re seen all over the world now and not just big markets."
Stefan Bondy: Fisher says he wants limit praise on Durant w/ impending free agency. We all know how trigger happy Thunder can be w/ tampering charges.
The Knicks weren’t a hot ticket for free agents last season coming off a 17-65 record and with a European project first-round pick named Kristaps Porzingis. With a 6-6 start and Porzingis looking to be a potential cornerstone player, the Knicks could be an attractive destination if Durant decides to leave Oklahoma City. Nevertheless, the Knicks are about $4 million short of having maximum cap space. They would need to have either Derrick Williams or Arron Afflalo opt out of their two-year deals, and that is hardly a given. Team president Phil Jackson can get very close to having max room if he is uses a stretch provision on point guard Jose Calderon.
Not only does he have a long history with the top free agent of the 2016 summer (the Thunder’s Kevin Durant), but also the top free agent name in 2017 (UCLA product/Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook). Alas, those are stories for another day. On this day, it’s the Rockets who simply must find a way to fix their problems soon in this post-McHale era.
Elhassan: "They didn't extend Harrison Barnes, they didn't extend Festus Ezeli... so it gives them the flexibility pretty much to work around those guys, to maybe negotiate a sign-and-trade. So if you're Oklahoma City and Durant says 'I'm outta here', Golden State can put together a pretty solid package. The question is if you're Golden State, at what point do you say 'that's too much.' Because the Thunder are going to ask the Sun, the Moon and the stars."
To sign Durant at his maximum using cap space, the Warriors could only have about $64 million in committed salaries and holds on their books. Remarkably, they can stay under that number while retaining their key pieces thanks to Stephen Curry’s comically cheap $12.1 million salary.
One thing is clear: The Heat intends to make a long-shot bid to lure Durant, who sold his Miami condo earlier this year.
For Miami to be able to make a competitive bid for Durant, the Heat would need to either pass on signing Whiteside; or trade McRoberts, somehow get Whiteside at something closer to $10 million for 2016-17 (that’s not happening), cajole Wade to take less than $10 million and fill out the roster with cheap labor.
Big-name teams like the Lakers, Bulls and Knicks have designs on Durant, but few front-office executives guess he’d wind up in any of those markets. (There has been the lingering possibility, though, that the defending champion Warriors could get Durant’s attention.) “Everyone is going to be ready for him, I think everyone wants to at least be in the mix and see what happens,” one Eastern Conference general manager said. “But I think everyone knows that it is going to take a lot to get him out of OKC, and if it isn’t OKC, it’s going to be Washington. Stranger things have happened, but going into it, I think it will be down to those two places.”
And he certainly understands fan interest in free agency. “It’s easy to get your hopes up and expect a guy to come to your team or whatever — and I’m not talking about myself, I’m just talking about free agency in the past years and in the future — you get your hopes up as a fan, and then they let you down and you end up not liking the player,” Durant said. “There’s a little bit too much emphasis on that type of stuff, but it’s part of the game."
But the former league MVP held his ground when asked about the return and looming summer sweepstakes. “Just looking forward to the game, man,” Durant said. “Playing against a really good team, a really fast team. It’s going to test us on both ends of the court and it’s good to see my family, man. I haven’t seen them in a while. I haven’t played in front of them in a while so I’m looking forward to it.”
Anthony Slater: Kevin Durant got lobbed a pair of free agency related questions. His response: How tough is it when you're constantly asked about your free agency decision and people I'm sure are giving you their suggestions? KD: "I just try to go about every day, focus on that day. Not try to worry about the future too much. Worry about that stuff when I get there. I've been saying I don't know. I really just focus on our team. I'm happy I'm playing again and that kind of takes over my thought process. Just worrying about playing and happy I'm playing."
"He appears to (not want) to be the center of attention when it comes to that. A more down-to-earth type of guy where he's one of the guys. You can respect that. I can understand why fans want him to come. He's a top three players in the world, he's from D.C. and a player like that can change you from getting to the Finals to possibly winning the Finals. It goes both ways. That's why the NBA is better than a lot of sports. ... In basketball, one or two stars going to a different team, your expectations are different. This is a star league and he's a top three player. ... Hopefully he does (come to D.C.)," Jared Dudley said.
"First of all, it's always an elephant in the room when you're talking about that stuff. I don't want to, like, totally just dodge it. I know it's coming. I know the situation," Durant said. "But I'm really focusing on how I can be better every game. And how I can get back – I don't want say get back, because I'm back – but get used to playing again. All that other stuff is going to come, but we'll wait until we get to that bridge when we cross it."
"Free agency is like a season now, and it shouldn’t be that big. Me, I feel, is you should focus on who you have on your team. It’s easy to get your hopes up and expect a guy to come to your team or whatever — and I’m not talking about myself, I’m just talking about free agency in the past years and in the future — you get your hopes up as a fan, and then they let you down and you end up not liking the player. There’s a little bit too much emphasis on that type of stuff, but it’s part of the game."
All of which, he admits, makes this free agency process somewhat uncomfortable. "Yeah, I’m really not good with attention," he said. "I really don’t like all this stuff to be centered around me, but I know it comes with it, that it’s a part of it. But I’m still getting used to it. I’ve learned to embrace it a little bit, but it’s still a little awkward for me.
May 26, 2022 | 11:38 am EDT Update
Michael Scotto: The Cavaliers want to retain Collin Sexton. He’s going to demand starting guard money, I’m told. There are some teams who will be in the market for a point guard this summer, including the New York Knicks and Washington Wizards, who would have to acquire Sexton in a sign-and-trade if they want to get him. Last season, no restricted free agent signed an offer sheet, and players such as Cavaliers forward Lauri Markkanen switched teams via sign-and-trade.
Michael Scotto: One executive told me, “I think Cleveland will extend a qualifying offer to Sexton and look to match an offer. I don’t see him receiving an offer, but I think Cleveland will use Sexton as a trade asset. I expect them to try and sign him to a deal in the $18-20 million annual range so they can eventually trade him.”
Chris Fedor: My sources tell me at the end of the Sexton negotiations, the two sides were kicking around Bogdan Bogdanovic money, so around $18 million annually. I get the sense that the Cavs are more comfortable in the range of $15-18 million (annually). I think Collin is looking more in the range of $18-22 million (annually). I do think there’s a gap they need to close this offseason.
Chris Fedor: One team the Cavs are internally wondering about, not necessarily what they’re worried about, is the Detroit Pistons. To get some kind of lethal scorer next to Cade Cunningham and take some of the ball-handling responsibilities and pressure off him. My sources tell me the Cavs do not believe there is a team out there that is going to give Collin a contract north of $20 million annually.
Michael Scotto: One executive told me, “I think Caris LeVert will get around $20.5 million per season on an extension. That’s a little too rich for me, but I believe Cleveland will pay him that if they want to extend him.” Another executive said, “Caris is interesting due to his injury history. A short-term extension around the number he’s on would be good value.” He’s making about $19 million.
Chris Fedor on trade candidates to watch: Here are the names that I’ve heard: I think both (Bojan and Bogdan) Bogdanovics would make sense. Gordon Hayward, whose salary lines up with Kevin Love… Tobias Harris, Harrison Barnes, Gary Trent Jr., Jeremi Grant, Aaron Gordon. And this is one that I’m watching. I think it’s less likely than it was when the postseason started, but it’s one that I’ve heard kicked around inside the walls of Cleveland. It’s Andrew Wiggins of the Warriors.
Chris Fedor: There’s another name, too, since they need a reliable backup point guard that can start, and I’ve heard this name with the Cavaliers as well. My sources tell me JB Bickerstaff would love to coach him again, Mike Conley. If Utah decides to move him in an effort to put the right pieces around Donovan Mitchell and shake up that roster. Conley for somebody like Caris LeVert is something I think the Cavs would consider.
Chris Fedor: My sources tell me there’s mutual interest in that (Ricky Rubio) reunion. In fact, some people are essentially penciling him in as on the roster. I wouldn’t go that far with it. It’s complicated because even though he’s a great fit, there are some variables here. How good and effective is he going to be coming off a second torn ACL? You’re not going to get him until about midway through the season. The earliest would be November or December.