In stating his evaluations of the current roster and the team’s dreadful record, Mills was more measured with his words. He is smart to call this season a rebuilding year, especially with Porzingis sidelined until at least February. Mills then lowered expectations in advance of this summer’s free agency. If the Knicks strike out, Mills can simply say we’re building through the draft. That’s a wise strategy.
What Mills can’t say publicly, because it would violate the NBA’s tampering rules, is that the Knicks are all in on free agent-to-be Kevin Durant. The Warriors superstar is and should be the Knicks’ number one free agent target. And for what it’s worth, according to several NBA executives who attended last week’s G-League Showcase in Las Vegas, the general consensus is the Knicks are still very much in play to land Durant. “Everyone says Knicks,” said one prominent player agent.
The cap space for New York in 2019-20 now projects to be $29.5M after the Allonzo Trier signing ($3.55M cap hit). The room takes into account: 1) All free agent cap holds renounced except for Kristaps Porzingis 2) Waiving the non-guaranteed contract of Lance Thomas 3) Their own first round pick. The projected max for a player with 7-9 years of service like Kyrie Irving is $32.7M and for 10+ years like Kevin Durant $38.15M.
The Clippers, it seems, closely watch every Raptors and Warriors game this season. Even though they are having a terrific season of their own -- experiencing the rare joy of expectation-free success in the NBA -- the Clippers are rather transparently obsessed with chasing Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant in free agency next summer.
Warriors forward Kevin Durant, who has been more ambiguous about his potential free-agent plans for next summer, said he understands why certain stars might balk at joining forces with LeBron. "It depends on what kind of player you are," Durant said. "If you're Kyle Korver, then it makes sense. Because Kyle Korver in Atlanta was the bulk of the offense, and he's not a No. 1 option at all, not even close. So his talents benefit more from a guy who can pass and penetrate and get him open. "If you're a younger player like a Kawhi, trying to pair him with LeBron James doesn't really make sense. Kawhi enjoys having the ball in his hands, controlling the offense, dictating the tempo with his post-ups; it's how he plays the game. A lot of young players are developing that skill. They don't need another guy."
Durant also noted that the suffocating media attention around James doesn't help, either. "So much hype comes from being around LeBron from other people," Durant said. "He has so many fanboys in the media. Even the beat writers just fawn over him. I'm like, we're playing basketball here, and it's not even about basketball at certain points. So I get why anyone wouldn't want to be in that environment because it's toxic. Especially when the attention is bullshit attention, fluff. It's not LeBron's fault at all; it's just the fact you have so many groupies in the media that love to hang on every word. Just get out of the way and let us play basketball."
Kevin Durant’s free-agent decision looms large for Golden State. He has made it clear that he doesn’t know what he’ll do next summer. But if the two-time Finals MVP decides to stay with the Warriors, his commute would actually become easier. Durant’s condo in San Francisco is not a far drive from where the new arena is being built. In fact, KD is the only player on the current roster living in San Francisco. “I wanted to be in the big city and mix it up a little bit,” Durant told The Undefeated. “It’s close to the [Bay] Bridge and the practice facility and arena [in Oakland]. I wanted to try it out. I’ve never lived in a big city before by myself. I wanted to learn more about the flow of the city.”
The Warriors hope Durant will continue to make his home in San Francisco as he will be the league’s most coveted free agent next summer. The nine-time All-Star was on hand when the Warriors broke ground on their new arena, called the Chase Center, and also recently got an updated tour of the arena on Nov. 9 with team sponsors and the media. “I’ve been hearing about it for so long,” Durant said. “Two years ago, I went to the groundbreaking. Now, I just wanted to see how far they’ve come with it. It looks amazing. I just wanted to see it.”
In talking about the Knicks and their off-season target, Kevin Durant, Woj said New York will probably “get a meeting” with the Finals MVP, but threw a bit of cold water on their chances, at least from a historical perspective. “Getting a player like Durant takes years of building up a program, building up an infrastructure, building credibility with what you’re doing and history kind of shows you that it doesn’t get short-circuited by a guy who’s a big free agent,” said Woj. “If you’re talking about Kevin Durant, some people say he may be the best player in the league. “History also tells you that that player usually either stays where he is or he goes somewhere where something’s been established there and has been building toward this. The Knicks may not fit that description.”
On whether he wishes he had approached free agency differently. Kevin Durant: "I know your guys’ job. I know that’s a topic of discussion amongst, not just me, but a lot of players that are coming up on contracts. But that’s the nature of the beast that we’re in. I’m not saying that I enjoy talking about it, because I know it should be all about just playing the season out, and that’s all I want to do. I get it, but at the same time, I’d rather just focus on playing basketball.”
Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant said last week’s well-publicized, in-game exchange with Draymond Green that resulted in Green’s one-game suspension will have no bearing on his future with the franchise and that he’s more than ready to move on from the incident. “Nah, [it won’t factor],” Durant told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday. “Because at the end of the day, I’m just a ballplayer that’s just trying to be in a great environment to play basketball and groom my skills every day. And I want to compete on a level that once the game starts, I’m just totally comfortable with my surroundings, with just going out there and being me.”
“I never really felt like it was a problem, because I know Dray and he says some crazy [expletive] out his mouth all the time,” Durant told Yahoo Sports. “But on top of that, it was just that there was so much coming with it from the outside, and so much stuff that we have to answer now.”
“I was upset, but I know that I can’t hold on to something like this,” Durant told Yahoo Sports. “I know that I’ve got to make a choice with myself, like how long are you going to be upset about this to the point where you’re going to let it affect what you do on the floor or how you approach the game? Once it gets there now, I got to make a grown-man decision and tell myself, ‘Look, man, no matter what, you still got to come to work every single day. It’s going to work out. It’s going to figure itself out.’ And I think everyone’s been handling it the best way they could and we’re just trying to move forward with it.”
Based on my time around the Warriors so far this season, I would argue that fears about Durant leaving in free agency actually weighed on the organization heavier last season than they do now. Various Warriors staffers were never sure, at occasional points last season, if Durant was truly enjoying the Golden State experience. In Year 3, they've largely learned to stop sweating it. Green, of course, is the exception. The timing and manner in which he brought up Durant's looming free agency made it clear that the topic is very much on his mind.
For most of Durant's teammates, though, as well as the Warriors' foremost decision-makers, I don't sense that they've been obsessed with what may or may not happen in July. Are they already convinced, as some have suggested, that he's leaving for the Knicks or the Clippers or whoever? Perhaps it's better to describe the approach as bracing for the worst-case scenario in hopes that the sting is lessened should it come to fruition.
According to sources, this entire saga isn’t about Durant’s free agency as much as it is Draymond’s vocal attitude about Durant’s free agency. There may be others in that locker room who don’t like how Durant has navigated these waters — and our Marcus Thompson has reported that there is — but no one has chosen to share those views like this. “No one cares except for Draymond,” one source insisted.
As The Athletic reported, there are those who believe Durant is leaving at the conclusion of the season regardless of how the team finishes. And if that occurs, fairly or not, Monday’s verbal altercation will come up as a reason for his departure.
As The Athletic reported, there are those who believe Durant is leaving at the conclusion of the season regardless of how the team finishes. And if that occurs, fairly or not, Monday’s verbal altercation will come up as a reason for his departure.
Hunter Atkins: Draymond Green’s first comments since flair up with Kevin Durant: “I’m never going to change who I am... I read a lot about how...’Did I force Kevin to leave?’...Whatever Kevin decides to do, whatever Klay decides to do, we had great years together. I support everybody.”
Jeff Zilgitt: Draymond's statement, saying he would address the issue one time and one time only. Didn't apologize. But said the Warriors wouldn't crumble because of an argument. Worth a listen.
This is, amazingly, the second most likely scenario in play. Durant Knicks buzz has been percolating around the league since June. In September, a league source told SI that the wheels for a New York move were already in motion, in much the same way LeBron's L.A. move had been (allegedly) scripted well before July 2018. There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of that claim.
While the Golden State Warriors remain confident that Kevin Durant will stay with the team next season, Stephen A. Smith of ESPN says he's "hearing differently." He broke down the latest rumors Wednesday on The Stephen A. Smith Show (beginning around 20:55): "I'm hearing the Knicks and the Lakers, with the Lakers having the edge. That's what I'm hearing. Two weeks ago, I heard the Knicks had the edge. Now, I hear the Lakers have the edge. Let me tell you something, it appears to be one of those two teams which is Kevin Durant's next destination. But Golden State is telling me: 'There's no way in hell we believe he's leaving. We believe Kevin Durant's gonna stay.'"
Green flipped the topic of conversation on Durant by challenging him on the handling of his free-agent season, league sources told The Athletic, perhaps creating more issues that will need to be addressed.
While sources say that Green’s treatment of Durant on the court was the primary reason for their choice to take approximately $120,000 out of his bank account, it’s clear that his caustic comments to Durant that related to free agency played a pivotal part here too. If only we lived in a world with unending candor, where the press release might include a line like, “We’d strongly prefer that Draymond doesn’t pack Kevin’s bags for him and book his flight on one of those Alaska Airlines planes that feature his smiling face and incredible wingspan, and so he was suspended.”
According to several in the locker room, Durant could have ended this by just saying how much he loves playing with the Warriors and his teammates and leave it at that, even if he departs in the offseason. They are all prepared for him to leave so they just want the cloud hanging over them to go away. Another option would be to reject all questions about free agency and force the media to focus on this season, a way of protecting his teammates.
Durant has said he doesn’t want to lead anybody on. But Green is part of a contingent that believes Durant has a hand in creating the hype about his free agency, a tangential focus that detracts from their mission of winning a third straight title.
The general consensus: Green was wrong for going so hard at Durant instead of having a hard-but-civil conversation, and Green was wrong for when he decided to address this situation — in the middle of a game they were trying to win. Green admitted as much to Curry and several believe he would have (and still will) cop to that. But the general consensus also is that Green’s concerns about how Durant has handled free agency weren’t off base.
So if it happened to turn into a meme, so what? Durant said he didn’t exactly know what he was getting into by agreeing to do the tour but chuckled when recalling that a few excited reporters asked him if he’d commit to re-signing with the Warriors right then and there, on camera. “What are we doing here?” Durant said then with mock exasperation and repeated it Saturday. “I mean, what are we doing here? I was just curious and wanted to take a look. I ain’t signing shit right now.”
The Golden State Warriors' recruitment of Kevin Durant took another public step on Friday afternoon as the organization gave the All-Star forward a guided tour of Chase Center. Durant, who is expected to test free agency this summer, toured the Warriors new facility along with a group of sponsors and media. The Warriors will move into the Chase Center next summer and will begin playing there next season after 47 years at Oracle Arena.
As Durant walked around the construction site, he said he couldn't help but think about what his future may look like if he decides to stay with the Warriors after this season. "My imagination is going wild right now with possibilities," he said at one point.
When a reporter asked Durant if he was going to commit to stay with the Warriors as he considered where his new home would be, Durant smiled and brushed the question aside. "What are we doing?" Durant said, while Warriors staffers tried to move the tour along. "What are we doing?"
They’re celebrating the mundane this season, having fun with Curry’s explosions and Thompson’s beard and headband, and even remixing Fergie’s eyebrow-raising national anthem from the All-Star Game last year. So when the subject of Durant-to-New York comes up, Green doesn’t bat an eye. “When that decision comes up, I think we’ll have won three championships,” Green told Yahoo Sports. “That’s my recruiting: three out of three.”
“You seen the coverage around LeBron’s free agency and I knew that that type of attention would come and playing in a small market where nobody [outside of Oklahoma City] really came to see us, unless it was a huge game, it’s a lot to take in,” Durant said. “I feel like I learned from that situation. Back then, I didn’t let it bleed onto the basketball court. I just didn’t know what was coming. “Now I have a good idea of what’s coming from fans, from media, just people who love free agency. That’s the thing now, that’s a part of the game. People love just that side.”
The only commitment that Durant is willing to make on the record is that he will never again be purchased at a discount price. Durant wants all of the money he’s earned by elevating himself into the discussion as the game’s best player (LeBron James is usually where the debate begins and ends, but is the gap between them that great, especially when defense — which James plays sporadically — is taken into consideration? That’s a discussion for another day).
The Madison Square Garden crowd roared when Durant was announced but he has bristled in the past about overly amorous fans. The Knicks booked Ashanti to play the national anthem and halftime — Durant has publicly expressed his fondness for her music — but who would switch teams because of a halftime act? He is a fan of MSG — “It feels like you’re playing at Rucker Park indoors,” he said — but Durant can just play Rucker in the summer. Trying to read body language and tea leaves, however, is likely to be a failing mission. Durant is too savvy, too experienced. Instead, the whole night was just atmospherics.
“Trying to read into it it is useless,” Shaun Livingston said. “Because when that man is ready to make a decision or when he’s ready to say something, he will say it. That’s a grown man down there and he’s been 12 years in the league. He’s seen pretty much everything.”
That statement didn’t seem to be tampering by even the loosest definition, but it will be interesting to see how the league reacts to Johnson having the following exchange: “Last year at the same time, World Series, you guys had me on and we were talking about who I might bring to the Lakers... And you guys got me LeBron! (laughs)” *a picture of Ortiz with Kevin Durant and LeBron both wearing Lakers jerseys* "Hey, hey, I love that (more laughter)!"
Although Johnson did follow it up with this: “I’ve already been fined enough.” We’ll see if the NBA agrees, although the following defenses would seem to work in Johnson’s favor: He never said anyone’s name, so maybe he’s just a fake jersey photoshop image enthusiast! He may have just been admiring the graphic design work.
That night’s 2018 parallel came on Friday in New York City. Three years later, the Knicks play the role of desperate Eastern Conference franchise dreaming of Durant in their jersey. The Warriors are now the incumbent protector, but do so in a very different, more relaxed way than the Thunder. Back then, the OKC brass fist-pumped the schedule makers. They were elated to get the D.C. trip out of the way early. Durant’s impending free agency loomed over the franchise like a storm cloud. Certain hot spot cities made it feel like a hurricane. That’s not the feeling around these Warriors. When chatting with some of the franchise’s luminaries on Friday night in Madison Square Garden, no one sounded eager for the New York City weekend to end. There was even a slight bit of disappointment that one of their favorite trips on the calendar would be scratched off before the season was two weeks old.
That’s a constant theme around these Warriors: Humor to defuse tension. Durant’s free agency future is a serious threat to this dynasty. Everyone is curious to see what he’ll do. It’ll affect the life path of many of his teammates. They monitor the breadcrumbs as closely as anyone. Around the Thunder, it was a taboo topic — always there but hardly touched. Around these Warriors, it freely pops up at any moment, occasionally weaponized into a joke, like when Durant got to the Garden on Friday night and Andre Iguodala had a message for him. “Welcome home,” Iguodala joked.
The other difference: The Warriors in zero way fear the Knicks in these sweepstakes. Durant may decide to go to New York in July. They know that. The buzz is legitimate. The connections are there. His business manager, Rich Kleiman, is a New York-based Knicks fan with dreams of working in their front office one day. Royal Ivey, perhaps Durant’s best friend, is on David Fizdale’s coaching staff. But in all aspects of basketball success and organizational management, the areas in which the Warriors can control, they are superior.
There’s reason to believe KD will have the Knicks on his radar — as opposed to 2015. Rich Kleiman, born and bred in Manhattan, growing up a diehard Knicks fan, was at the Garden for Friday’s matchup. Kleiman is Durant’s manager/agent. Knicks president Steve Mills and Kleiman go way back. At least the Knicks will be kept in the loop if there’s even a chance.
But he isn’t bothering to confirm or deny. He has no interest in leaning anybody one way or another. Liberated Durant is blunt. “I’m not thinking about none of that shit,” Durant said after Wednesday’s night victory over Washington. “I’m really locked in with the team.” “He lying,” Andre Iguodala blurted from the neighboring locker, interrupting Durant’s explanation. Laughs ensued.
“I am thinking about the money I’m going to get,” Durant said. “I never got the (massive) deal. I’ve just seen a bunch of dudes around the league making so much money — and I’m happy for them. But I know I deserve that, too. That’s the only thing I’m probably thinking about, to be honest.”
Durant was tepid in his reaction to the billboard when asked about it Thursday. "It's the time the NBA is in," he said. "We look forward to free agency as fans, and your guys' job is to kind of look towards the future a little bit. And the fans love it. So I understand. "To be honest, I don't know how I feel about that type of stuff. It's cool. No disrespect, but I'm not really impressed with that type of stuff. I just really like playing basketball. ... I know all of that stuff is a part of it, but for me I don't really get up for that stuff."
Knicks Coach David Fizdale insisted he hasn’t paid attention to Durant’s contract status. “Not even a little bit. Nope. I don’t even like saying it when it’s not about anything, because he’s a killer,” Fizdale said. “I was watching film on him the other day, and the guy’s just so efficient. He’s a special player. But no, I can’t talk about that other stuff.”
Free agency may be more than eight months away, but the public courting of Kevin Durant has already started. With Durant and the Golden State Warriors in New York to play the New York Knicks on Friday, a marketing company has put up a billboard near Madison Square Garden recruiting Durant to New York. The billboard features Durant in a road Knicks jersey next to Kristaps Porzingis with the question, "Can you make NY sports great again?" posted to Durant's Instagram handle, @easymoneysniper.
Durant is holding the Larry O'Brien Trophy, something the Knicks last won in 1973. The billboard also features the hashtag #KDNY2019. "My business partner and I are lifelong Knick fans, and we are tired of all the losing, so we decided to do our part to in helping our team recruit the best players the NBA has to offer, because that's what New York sports deserves," said Benjamin Pokh, president of the marketing company. The Knicks expect to have enough cap space this summer to pay a max free agent such as Durant. They are one of many clubs who will have strong interest in the former MVP if he opts out of the final year of his contract and tests free agency, as expected.
“I think it’s simple for KD. I think he just tells people one time and one time only. He’ll deal with that when the time comes,” George told Yahoo Sports. “In his mind right now, they’re focusing on a three-peat, they’re focusing on defending that title. That’s the only thing the media needs to worry about. Regardless of if he stays or if he goes, he gave them three great years. That’s what the Bay has to be proud of.” The New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers will take a run at the back-to-back Finals MVP, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Personnel from the Clippers are expected to attend a high number of Warriors games this season, sources said. Rival executives are of the belief that Durant, unlike the previous two summers he hit free agency with the Warriors, might be swayed to leave the Bay Area this time around.
The 2018-19 NBA season could very well be Kevin Durant’s final year with the Golden State Warriors. But while he’s still under contract, the defending champs are well within their right to kick off their recruitment of Durant early. “I don’t need [to be recruited], I don’t need to feel appreciated,” Durant told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday after a 108-100 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on opening night. “I don’t need anything extra [from the Warriors]. I’m just here to hoop and win games. I already know what this organization is about.”
Zach Lowe: He's not going back to Oklahoma City. I'd be dumbfounded if he joined LeBron. He must know the Warriors will always be Curry's team. The social media slights will never stop as long as Durant is there. People who know Durant say part of him must crave the challenge of being the undisputed alpha dog and lead ball handler -- of putting up a 32-10-8 stat line. Some of those same people wonder if he is a little scared of that challenge. A normal human would feel both of those things. But whoever revives the Knicks will become legend. They have a young co-star in Kristaps Porzingis who could take on more of the scoring burden as Durant ages.
Tim Bontemps: If today was July 1, I think Durant would leave. I think it's most likely he signs with the Knicks, and if not the Knicks I could see he and Kawhi Leonard teaming up with the Clippers. I would be surprised if he was with anyone but the Knicks, Clippers or Warriors next season, though. And I also won't be surprised if he changes his mind plenty of times between now and when he makes that decision.
Lacob’s reasoning: Look at the Warriors’ banners. They have three of them in the past four years. Look at the trophies. Durant has collected two consecutive NBA titles and Finals MVPS since joining the Dubs in 2016. Look at the business opportunities. Durant can re-sign with the Warriors next season to a five-year deal worth $219 million, along with maintain and expanding his business portfolio in Silicon Valley. “It’s not even on my mind,” Lacob said. “There’s no more uncertainty this year than there was last. He’s been on a one-year deal each year. So I don’t really understand what all the hullabaloo is about.”
“He loves being a part of our organization and being a part of the Bay Area,” Lacob said of Durant. “He’s earned the right to be a free agent or do whatever he wants in terms of contract status. I would let it play out and see what happens. I’m not too worried about it.”
Anthony Slater: Reporter: "Given the economics of the game, is there any thought that this is the last go around with this core group?" Steve Kerr: "No" .....long pause..... "Can't make it any clearer than that"
As the Warriors enter the 2018-19 season, Kevin Durant’s pending free agency next season serves as the most vivid example. Will he re-sign with the Warriors as he has done every summer for the past two years? Or will he decide he is better off pursuing NBA championships, scoring records and business deals elsewhere? “For some reason, everyone thinks this year is different than last,” Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob told Bay Area News Group. “I don’t see that.”
The source of the hullabaloo stems from Durant’s obvious star power and uncertainty on what variables he will measure with his next contract. Will he value the Warriors’ championship equity, team-oriented culture and monetary advantage? Or does Durant want to prove he can win elsewhere without the Warriors’ three other All-Stars in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green? “He loves being a part of our organization and being a part of the Bay Area,” Lacob said of Durant. “He’s earned the right to be a free agent or do whatever he wants in terms of contract status. I would let it play out and see what happens. I’m not too worried about it.”
The other 29 teams are thus bound to draw hope from the recent widespread rumbles that Durant will seriously consider signing with the Knicks next summer. Yet my own sense, after some temperature-taking in Vegas, is that more people within the organization than not believe Durant ultimately wants to enjoy at least one season in Golden State’s new San Francisco palace after spending so much off-court time in his first two seasons immersing himself in the Silicon Valley culture.
The Warriors have to brace for the worst, of course, but I don’t sense much Durant apprehension yet. There is even less tangible concern about Thompson, despite the Lakers’ anticipated interest, given how often Klay has publicly said he hopes to spend his whole career as a Warrior. Another factor that should help the Warriors in their quest to hang onto Durant through at least 2020: Irving’s recent proclamation that he intends to stay with the Celtics, as opposed to bolting for the Knicks, would seemingly prevent New York from signing the sidekick most likely to tempt Durant to switch coasts.
The Athletic‘s Marcus Thompson, who covers the Warriors, was a guest on KNBR Tuesday morning, and he said the vibe he is getting is that this season is Durant’s last run in Golden State. “Man, KD out,” Thompson told Murph and Mac. “I feel like he is gone. It does have that vibe, like, ‘This is it. This could be it right here.’ Here’s the hard part with KD: We don’t know what he wants. I don’t know that he knows what he wants. But I know the Warriors don’t know fully what he wants. Is it a championship, supremacy, is it to be the ace? “It feels like he has gotten everything he could possibly get from the Warriors, and it’s still not 100 percent like he wants to be here. If it was like a relationship, like, ‘Look, man. I gave you all I got. You still looking — you might as well just go.’ That’s how it feels.”
OK, this is close to being a reported part. I’ve talked to people in the franchise about this. Not for this piece but just through various conversations. Some I’ve sought out, some have sought out me. All of them have the same kind of undercurrent: we hope he stays, but wouldn’t be surprised if he leaves.
Nobody knows what Durant is going to do. As I said on the radio, I’d bet Durant doesn’t even know what he is going to do. But the people who are around him the most are chewing on that possibility. Again, this is not necessarily me polling Warriors people. Just conversations, with people on all levels. Because they talk about this just like we talk about this.
In June, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reported that James had texted Durant about the two joining forces. On Tuesday, Durant stated in no uncertain terms that the report was not accurate. “He** no. … That was all false. All false. 100 percent false,” Durant said, per Mark Medina of The Mercury News. “He didn’t talk about none of that stuff.”
The general feeling among Durant’s current teammates, coaches and front office staff is “he’s as happy as I’ve ever seen him” and “he’s in a great situation. He knows that.”
Monte Poole: Halftime sight: @Warriors CEO Joe Lacob walking away from the floor with his arm around the shoulder of Rich Kleiman, who represents the business interests of one Kevin Durant.
Enter the New York Knicks, who have been an Eastern Conference doormat for almost two decades running. After years of sacrificing future draft picks for aging superstars, their new front office has kept their picks, hired a coach in David Fizdale whom players love and are committed to the long haul. And it’s for those reasons above, according to Yahoo!’s Chris Haynes during an appearance on Fox Sports 1’s Undisputed, that the Knicks have a chance at luring Kevin Durant away from the two-time defending champion Warriors.
Kevin Durant knows the questions are coming. He knows that wherever he and the Golden State Warriors go this season he'll be asked about his impending free agency next summer -- but he is confident he'll be able to handle whatever comes his way, given his experiences the last time he went through the process with the Oklahoma City Thunder. "Just be honest," Durant told ESPN. "I was honest with my decision, but just like outwardly if people ask me about it, don't be ashamed to talk about why I decided to move teams and switch teams because it's not the end of the world. I didn't do anything against the law, you know what I'm saying? That's what I thought happened the first time."
"I dealt with it before," Durant said. "I just try to be as honest as I can. I'm not going to tell people what I'm thinking. I'm not going to tell you -- some days I think about my free agency, some days I don't. Some days I think about what my future looks like, some days I don't. I'm just human. That's just natural for me. But I can't sit down and talk to people about it because I want to keep playing, I want to focus on the season. So I know the questions are going to come. I know a lot of people are going to speculate and print rumors and sources, but nobody's heard from me about anything, so it's just all speculation at this point."
Entering his 12th season in the league, Durant is more confident than ever in both his place within the game and the voice he has beyond the floor. He knows the speculation will continue, but he's confident in himself that he'll make the right decision when the time comes again. In the short-term, he is enjoying the process of trying to prolong the Warriors dynasty. "I'm here," Durant said. "I'm 100 percent committed to this team this year and going as hard as I can every single day to be the best player that I can be to help this team win. It's going to be a lot of speculation on where I should go play ball, but at the end of the day it's just me playing ball. It doesn't really matter. I'm just playing ball, you know what I mean? I'm not making a huge, huge decision that's going to affect anyone else, but just myself so I don't even know why everybody cares that much."
“It was one of those things where you’re just confident in your skills, and you kind of just want to take it year by year,” Durant said at Warriors Media Day on Monday. “And I think to keep my options open, it was the best thing for me. “I could have easily signed a long-term deal … but I just wanted to take it a season by season and see where it takes me. And I think this whole year is going to be a fun, exciting year for us all, and I’m looking forward to just focusing on that, and we’ll see what happens after the year.”
There is some assumption that this is the best place for him, that he has thrived in the Bay Area, with his tech investments and all the winning, and that Durant’s ultimate decision probably will be to stay with the Warriors, who also can pay him the most. So why would he bolt? “I don’t think about it like that,” Green said when I asked if he’s wondering if Durant might leave after this season. “Also, I know I studied the business side of the league. I don’t just go play and say maybe my agent will figure it out or anything like that, like I studied the business side. “I could be reading it wrong. And if I am, I am. But me knowing the business side of things, I understand what he did. And we’ll see where it all ends up. But like I said we’re not going to enter this season saying K signed a one-year deal, what’s next?
One of those guys that’s coming up as a free agent was a free agent this summer. Signed a one-year deal, Kevin Durant. He could have signed longer. I think I predicted he’d sign a two-year deal to get a larger number. Any concern that he only signed a one-year deal and now he’s going to hit free agency? And he might hit it pretty hard next summer. Joe Lacob: That’s a two-edged sword, right? Sure, I think we would have liked to have had him be here longer, sign a long-term deal. On the other hand, we’re happy to have him. By him signing a one-year deal, it save us a little bit of money, actually, right? So, it allows us to do some other things. Like, maybe we wouldn’t have DeMarcus Cousins, right? As an example. KD’s been great. He’s my hero, man. He’s been a really good partner for us. He’s taken a little, as you know, a little bit of a discount over the last few years that has allowed to do a few extra things. I’m never going to forget that.
The Golden State Warriors star has an option in his contract that enables him to become a free agent next summer. Durant, 29, has been linked with moves to the Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Knicks heading into the season. The small forward has won consecutive NBA championships with the Warriors and it remains to be seen whether Durant wants a chance of scenery. And five-time NBA All-Star Billups has urged Durant to leave Golden State and win a championship elsewhere.
When asked whether Durant should opt to become a free agent next year, Billups told the Daily Star: “I hope he does actually, I hope he does. I really do. “I hope that he may have another Championship, then he can hop to be a free agent and maybe go somewhere else and help them win a Championship.”
What do you think percentage of Durant going to Knicks? He still seems to care so much about public opinion and have insecurities and this would be change to try and escape all the negative banter. Between him having chance to have his own team, Madison Square Garden, and Rich Klienman’s Knicks connections, I feel like this is similar to Lebron to LA. Ethan Strauss: @Trevor B. No clue of the percentage, but it's a distinct possibility.
Chris Mannix: "I think next summer, we are going to see a Kevin Durant free-agency tour. I think we'll see teams recruit him, maybe not the exact same way they did a few years ago, but in that kind of way. And if you start looking at potential teams, I know people like to connect Kevin Durant to Los Angeles, but I'm of the belief that if he gets his third championship, he's not going to want to play alongside LeBron James, Kevin Durant's gonna wanna be the player who eclipses LeBron James. You don't wanna go and play with somebody and help him win championships if you're on Durant level. You wanna be...the guy. I think that's gonna keep him out of L.A."
Jeff Goodman: "What about [his hometown] Washington Wizards [as a Kevin Durant free-agent landing spot]?" Chris Mannix: "He's not gonna go to Washington. He doesn't wanna play at home. That's been a long-standing thing with him. ... There would have to be a radical change [for Durant to consider it]."
Chris Mannix: "The relationship between Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City was never really torched. Oklahoma City always said the right things about him, and they always did right by him publicly. And the relationship between Durant and Russell Westbrook, while not being great by any stretch, is probably as good as it's been since he left Oklahoma City. So all those things are gonna factor in and make me think Oklahoma City will at least be on his list of possibilities [in free agency] next summer."
Knicks fans dreaming of a Durant signing next summer are hereby forewarned: It’s not inconceivable that he may actually choose to make Madison Square Garden home someday, but it’s extremely difficult to imagine the Silicon Valley-loving Durant doing so without playing at least one season in the Warriors’ new Chase Center palace in San Francisco, which doesn’t open until the 2019-20 campaign.
That’s what Yahoo Sports’ NBA insider Chris Mannix seems to think anyways. The belief from Mannix, who joined ‘The Herd’ with Colin Cowherd on Friday, is that Durant could be very much open to returning to the Thunder in order to help them to win an NBA championship. “I don’t think he finishes in Golden State. Look, after next season, he’s going to have $80 million in his pocket from the last three years and probably three championships,” Mannix said. “So at 30 years old, Kevin Durant is basically going to have a blank canvas. He can do whatever he wants knowing that his legacy is secure. There will be a lot of teams out there trying to recruit him. I think Kevin Durant wants to hear those recruitments. I think Kevin Durant will be open-minded next summer when it comes to where he wants to go. “But I keep going back to Oklahoma City. I keep going back to the fact that everything we know about Kevin Durant, the sensitivities, how much he hates the fact that people say he jumped on Steph Curry’s bandwagon, and the fact that there’s been no bridge burnt with Oklahoma City. The relationship with Russell Westbrook seems to be the best it’s been since he left Oklahoma City. I know that there’s some financial gymnastics you have to do to get a Kevin Durant on the roster, but I really believe come the end of the year, he’s going to take a long look at Oklahoma City.”
But that doesn’t appear to be in his plans. The past two seasons, Durant played under the same type of short-term deal, but regularly reaffirmed, both publicly and privately, his plan to re-up with the Warriors right when July arrived. This time around, he’s playing it more coy. I pressed him a bit on the 1-and-1 contract decision while in Vegas. He was very chatty about other subjects. He was short and purposely vague on this one. “Just felt like that was the right thing to do for me,” he said.
Asked about the trend of one-year contracts, especially for the top-tier stars, Durant said: “Because we know our power, know our control, want to do what’s best for us, more so than anything.” Despite a similar contract status during his first two seasons with the Warriors, does next year feel more like it’ll be more of an unknown, maybe like his final year in Oklahoma City, where the story chased him from city to city on the road? “I’m going to approach it like I always do,” Durant said. “Get ready for camp, take it a day at a time.”
June 23, 2021 | 5:32 am EDT Update
Sullivan is the author of “Can’t Knock the Hustle: Inside the Season of Protest, Pandemic, and Progress with the Brooklyn Nets’ Superstars of Tomorrow,” which released on Tuesday. In a conversation with our friends from Celtics Wire on their podcast, Celtics Lab, Sullivan said that Nets ownership was unhappy with Irving over his midseason “pause,” and that Irving could be available for the right offer.
Matt Sullivan: “Let me give you guys a little news, I’m not sure that’s been out there. I’ve heard that Nets ownership was quite upset with Kyrie’s ‘pause,’ especially that maskless party that turned his psuedo-paternity leave into more like a COVID suspension. And in the last week I’ve heard rumblings – whispers, really, because cracking the Nets is kind of like breaking into the Kremlin, that Brooklyn GM Sean Marks would maybe, possibly, apparently be willing to at least listen to a trade offer for Kyrie this offseason. Now, I’m not sure what the market for Kyrie is at this point. It’s not like Ben Simmons giving you the headache on the court. It’s that complex personality that comes from off the court. I think it’s been annoying some people in the franchise. I can’t speak to his teammates, who obviously want to play with one of the world’s best and get him back there.”
Deandre Ayton couldn’t stop smiling after the Phoenix Suns’ 104-103 win on Tuesday gave them a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals over the LA Clippers. The big man wore a permagrin as he basked in the joy that came from dunking home the go-ahead bucket in the game’s final second, finishing one of the most dramatic alley-oops in NBA playoff history, but he didn’t want any of the credit. “I’ll start off by saying that’s definitely Jae [Crowder’s] game winner, making a great pass for a 7-footer,” Ayton said after his dunk with 0.7 seconds left lifted his final line to 24 points on 12-for-15 shooting and 14 rebounds.
No wonder Ayton said he completed the best play of his three-year NBA career after finishing with 24 points, 14 rebounds and one memorable lob that gave the Suns a 2-0 series lead. “I never played so hard from the jump ball to the end, 150%,” Ayton said. “Usually it’s like 110%, but tonight it’s 150% and it’s 150% mentally. Just the level of focus and the things you have to really pay attention to, it’s really intense.”
And the production has been eye-popping. Per Elias Sports Bureau research, this postseason Ayton is the first player in the shot clock era (since 1954-55) with a 70% or better field goal percentage in any 12-game postseason span. He has had five 20-point, 10-rebound games this postseason, the most by a Suns player since Amar’e Stoudemire in 2007. “I’ve never played so hard from the jump ball to the end,” Ayton said. “A hundred and fifty percent. Usually, it’s like 110, but this is 150%. And it’s 150% mentally, too. Just the level of focus and the things you really have to pay attention to. It’s really intense, man.”
The cloud of the 2018 draft doesn’t follow Ayton. He has admitted in the past to being sensitive to perception and criticism, but put all of it behind him. “At the end of the day, we’re all different players,” Ayton said of comparisons to Doncic and Young. “I’m a 7-footer, big man, and they’re two point guards. I don’t know what you can compare. But me, I play as hard as I can. This is my team. I dominate the best way I can for this team and try to take this team as far as I can. Other than that, I trust my work, I trust my work ethic, I trust my craft.”
But with a chance to give them a three-point lead with 8.2 seconds left, George surprisingly missed both free throws despite coming into this game making 89.2% from the free throw line this postseason. “I’m not going to put too much on that,” George said afterward. “Obviously it was an opportunity that was missed. Pat made an unbelievable play that put me in position to extend the lead. I’m always confident at the free throw line. I’ve always been very successful in clutch moments at the free throw line.”
Meanwhile, the Clippers failed to capitalize on a game that was there for the taking, and now trail 2-0 for a third straight series this postseason. “This game, I’ve played a lot of games in this league, this one’s hard,” said Beverley, who got the start in Game 2. “This one goes up there. This is a hard game to kind of swallow because you look at this game, I mean, we got this game won, you know. “But we’ve been in the trenches before. We respond well in the trenches. We’ll respond well. We always do.”