Storyline: Kevin Durant Free Agency

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A big part of this circus has been caused by Durant himself. Instead of squashing any rumor of his departure during the Warriors’ first media availability of the season, he said he’d exercise his collectively bargained right to test the market. But with that came intense scrutiny from TV personalities and writers alike, some of whom Durant has called out by name. “That’s a hot topic,” Durant acknowledged of his free agency. “But you don’t have to talk about it. And then you don’t have to get mad when I don’t want to talk about it. And then you don’t have to get mad when your little brain is roaming around, but you can’t find the correct answers. That’s bad journalism. That’s not doing your job well.”

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“I don’t know. I never know,” Durant said. “Nothing. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I don’t think about the future, bro. Like that. Of course, I think about it, but not like, let me make these [plans], let me go ahead and go through the logistics and the details. I don’t go through details on s–t like this. “My whole thing is, I don’t even want the business to get in the way of basketball,” Durant continued. “So, in the beginning of the season, my whole thing was like, let that s–t … that s–t has nothing to do with me during the season. That has nothing to do with what we’re doing on the court.”

Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant, after a 38-point, bounce-back performance Thursday night to guide his team to a 2-1 series lead with a 132-105 trouncing of the Los Angeles Clippers, was pleased to be a topic of conversation for all the right reasons. “This was the first time this season that my actual basketball play, and not about what I’m going to do in the future, took over the headlines,” Durant told Yahoo Sports after the win. “Think about that now. That hasn’t happened in a long time. I like that. That’s the way it should be.”

To be clear, we don’t know whether Durant will consider the Clippers this offseason. Logic doesn’t always apply in free agency decisions, but among the teams with enough cap space to sign Durant, the Clippers are arguably both an appealing destination and the best set up to build a long-term contender. “L.A. is a desired place of living — guys like to be there during the offseason,” an NBA agent told The Athletic. “And they have stuff that sets them apart from like the Lakers: continuity, cohesiveness. They have an owner who will do whatever it takes that’s possible.

Durant added that it would be disrespectful to his Warriors teammates to make a decision about his future during the playoffs. “If I already made a decision, it would take away from the team, what we’re fighting for. Every play would be overshadowed by it,” Durant said. “It is not necessary for me to make a decision right now. It would be bad to do that. It would take the focus off of what is important. I would never want to put my teammates in a messed-up position. I want to forget about it.

While Durant isn’t focused on where he’ll play next season, he told The Undefeated in December that he loves living in the Bay Area. “It’s a place where you can blend in,” Durant said. “I always wanted to blend in and do my thing. I’ve lived in a couple places here in the Bay. Moving around and seeing the people here, I can relate to everybody here. When I drive around Oakland, I feel like I am in Maryland and D.C. Then when I go to the city [San Francisco], it feels like I am in the heart of Washington, D.C.

Having has spent much of his career in pursuit of James, using his success as a barometer for what he needs to accomplish, Durant now has a chance to tie him in championships and capture the three-peat that would put him in select company alongside Russell and Jordan. He’s in that position because he’s endured the storm, all for chasing what had eluded him in previous places. “I’m from Washington, D.C. I went to Oklahoma City for eight years. Out of nowhere, I went to the Bay for three years,” Durant said. “I’ve been roaming my whole life. I never had no stable environment. Ever. Ever. Since I woke up. I sacrificed a lot of shit to be here and to change my game up to be with these guys. And it was worth it.”

The Lakers will now turn their attention to an offseason in which they are expected to revisit trade options for Davis, while also chasing top targets in free agency – as unlikely as it is that Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant or Klay Thompson will come, according to a league source who believes the Lakers will be second or third on those players’ lists. The fear that the Lakers could strike out with their top targets has already led to some message massaging. “You don’t need names, you need games,” a source close to James told The Athletic. The Lakers could build a team of complementary pieces better suited for James, like Boston’s Marcus Morris or Milwaukee’s Nikola Mirotic, and fare better than they did this season. But it would run counter to Johnson’s stated philosophy. After all, on a World Series broadcast last fall, Johnson declared, “I’m going to get another superstar next summer!”

The belief is that Durant will only join the Knicks if another high-level free agent agrees to sign with the Knicks as well. The most likely candidate is the Celtics’ Kyrie Irving, who coincidentally won a championship in Cleveland as Robin to LeBron’s Batman. He could fill that same role at MSG. So sure are some executives and player agents of a Durant-Irving pairing in New York that one agent told The Athletic that Durant and Irving are debating on who will sign first.

Yes, this is Curry’s team, but much of its future hinges on Durant’s decision, of course. So how much is Lacob stressing over Durant’s upcoming free agency? “I honestly don’t even think about it,” Lacob said. “I don’t. Because there’s nothing I can do about it. Zero. He has earned the right to be a free agent. He’s going to make the choice that feels best for him. And it’s our job to, when the season’s over, convince him that the right decision is to be a Warrior for life.

“Look, we can pay him the most money. We have a great team. We have great coaching. We have great fans. I don’t think anyone can match us, when you take everything into consideration, if that’s the way you’re thinking about it. And he has a chance to win — and let’ s hope it goes well this year — a chance to win more championships. I mean, it could be legendary. If he stays here … I don’t know that you get this kind of opportunity very often. So I would hope that he thinks that and accepts that and decides he wants to stay. “But on the other hand, I’m not going to be mad at him, either way. Whatever he decides to do, he decides to do. And I’ll probably be a Kevin Durant fan no matter what. I’m not going to be emotional about it. There’s no point.”

Kevin Durant ready to move on from Warriors?

Or it may end this summer, when Cousins, Durant and Thompson are all expected to be free agents (assuming Durant opts out of the $31.5 million last year on his contract). The players may agree to stay together or choose to seek out other challenges. The buzz from various executives, scouts and media members suggests that Durant is ready to move on. Thompson, if offered the max, will stay. If not, he too could exit. The Warriors may not be able to match market value for Cousins.

If you want rumors and predictions, they’re not hard to find in this gossipy league. Rival executives will tell you, without hesitation, that Durant is bound for the Knicks; that Irving is likely to join him; that Leonard likes the Clippers; that Butler might choose the Lakers—unless he chooses the Nets. Of course, they all might stay put. (Well, except for Durant. Virtually everyone believes he’s leaving the Warriors.) No one knows for sure. Predictions are flimsy.

“It’s pretty cool,” LeVert said before the Nets eliminated the Lakers from playoff contention with a 111-106 win. “It speaks to not only what we’ve done this season as a team, but to what D’Angelo has done on the court and also being a leader off the court that guys like Kevin Durant want to be close to him and a part of what he’s doing. I don’t think superstars, especially Kevin, want to be the one who has to carry the whole team, the full load on his own. He’s in his 30s now, so he definitely wants to go to a team that has a good core, has a good culture, has good guys on the team, and we fit all those categories.”

Kevin Durant will get a tour of Brooklyn from D’Angelo Russell. The Nets can only hope their star guard gets in some successful recruiting along the way. In Durant’s new video series “Fly By,” he’ll get a personal tour from three players of three different cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles and Brooklyn, which will get last licks. “Oh, man, I had no idea about that first of all. Listen, I really don’t want to comment on it,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said, careful to never utter Durant’s name. “There’s some players in this league who are friendly with each other, and if you want to get together and take a tour of Brooklyn, that’s great.

LeVert thinks Russell could be a selling point to Durant or other stars. “[Russell’s] played at an All-Star level. Everybody wants to play with a great point guard, a great floor general, and he’s put himself in that conversation for sure. That lessens the load for a guy like Kevin Durant or another superstar who wants to come play with us. They don’t want to be the only one on the team, so that’s very attractive that D’Angelo has elevated himself to that level to play with.”

I want to end by talking about this summer’s top free agents. I want to throw some different names at you and then you tell me what you predict the player will do and what you hope they do. Let’s start with Kevin Durant. Jalen Rose: If it was up to me, I’d actually like to see Kevin Durant remain a member of the Golden State Warriors. The last time I checked, he’s been there two years and won two championships and been named Finals MVP twice. That’s the mic drop. Now, if he decides to leave, I believe he’s going to end up a member of the New York Knicks. Same with Kyrie Irving. I would like to see him stay with the Boston Celtics. They have arguably the best general manager (Danny Ainge) and coach (Brad Stevens) in the game, they’ve won the most championships, they have terrific young talent and they could possibly get up to four draft picks in the first round this summer. I would like to see him stay in Boston. But if he decides to leave, I think he also ends up with the Knickerbockers.

How Dolan’s baggage impacts free agency is unclear. The general feeling is that both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will seriously consider joining the Knicks this summer. You can find coaches, players, executives and players who will tell you that Durant is headed to the Knicks. Building his business empire and cementing his legacy with a title in New York appeals to Durant. But Dolan’s ugly exit on Saturday is a reminder that the Knicks, for most of the last 18 years, have been a train wreck. The dysfunction starts at the top. That certainly concerns Mills and it should concern free agents, including Team Durant.

Windhorst recently discussed the relationship on ESPN Radio (around the 28-minute mark): “I was talking to some people who were with ‘Team Free Agent’, I mean ‘Team LeBron’ at All-Star, and they said that Kyrie and KD were like a middle school couple that weekend. Eating together. … Doing drills together at practice. ‘I’ll rebound for you. You rebound for me. I’ll post you up. You post me up.’ They were eating together. They went to Miami together after the weekend.”

Count ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith among those who think Kevin Durant may leave the Golden State Warriors during the coming offseason. “I think the scuttlebutt about him departing from Golden State is legit because I definitely think he plans on leaving,” he said on Thursday’s episode of First Take. “But I want to emphasize two things. The Golden State Warriors as an organization do not plan on losing him, number one. And number two, Kevin Durant is the kind of dude that changes his mind.”

I’ve said 50-50 on Durant since last summer and I’ve adjusted due to recent events to about 40-60 against him coming back to the Warriors next season. Just too much evidence pointing in the other direction, though obviously things always can change. I have always believed that Klay will sign a long-term deal this summer with the Warriors. The other questions … will be decided by too many factors that all could change frequently before any final reckoning on the subjects you mention, sorry!

I don’t see KD interact with his teammates anymore, are they ok? How about KD and Draymond do they hang out like before? We only see a fraction of the actual time these players are together, but I would say that what you are noticing is what a lot of people are noticing. Doesn’t mean they don’t chatter up constantly when we’re not looking, but usually what we see is a general representation of how it’s going between teammates. I do not believe Durant and Draymond spend as much time together as they used to.

They’re planning to pursue meetings with the best-of-the-best in free agency when July 1 rolls around. It’s a half-court shot of sorts, to be sure, but they’d love nothing more than to fire that pitch to everyone from Kevin Durant on down. Talk about the young core and where they believe they’re heading under coach Lloyd Pierce, the arena that received $192.5 million in renovations that have drawn rave reviews, and the fancy new practice facility too. Even if (insert free agent’s name here) doesn’t come, it’s the kind of courting that sends a league-wide message that your program should be taken seriously.

Chris Haynes: “Kevin Durant was my first guest on my podcast and I asked him about his [free agency] situation. He said on his next deal this summer, he wants to make the most money that he possibly can. If that’s the case, Golden State can offer him the most money. But I still don’t think it’s going to be all about money, even though that’s what he told me. You look at New York. Obviously his business partner, Rich Kleiman, is a huge Knicks fan and based in New York. I know a lot of noise was made about KD’s company moving to a new location in New York, but I talked to KD about that and he said his company has always been based in New York; they’re just moving to a new location there. It’s always been [in NY] and he wanted to make that clear. But the connections are all there. It’s all there. I really do think the New York Knicks are players [for Durant]… I’ll tell you, New York is going to be a player.”

Chris Haynes: “We all know that the Clippers have two max slots. They’re going to be aggressive… They have interest in Jimmy Butler. They’re going to go after KD. They’re going to go after Kawhi Leonard. And, this has been said before so I’m not reporting anything new, but I think the Clippers have a really good shot at Kawhi. I really do. Give credit to that front office over there and the way they’ve changed the culture… It depends on how things play out in Toronto. I think they really have to, if not win the championship, [at least] get to the NBA Finals to kind of cure the concern. That’s going to be really interesting. I’m looking forward to how [Leonard’s free agency] is going to play out probably even more so than Kevin Durant.”

Yet it’s likewise undeniably true that Steph and Giannis are buddies who are both represented by the same agency (Octagon) and share a mutual admiration that has resulted in Curry and Antetokounmpo selecting each other first overall with the No. 1 overall picks as captains in the first two All-Star drafts. I can promise you, furthermore, that the Warriors have internally mused about a run at Giannis — however futile it may prove to be — in the event they can’t convince Kevin Durant to re-sign this summer. Trying to sign the most attractive free agent available is on the first page of the Golden State owner Joe Lacob’s playbook.

The Warriors are favored to three-peat this season and feel their team, buoyed by the addition of Boogie Cousins, is in a good place as they enter the final seven weeks of the regular season. Durant’s future, they claim, is not a dark cloud hanging over their season. “We have no idea what he’s going to do,” said one team source. “Everyone wants him to stay. There’s not much more we can sell him on. If he leaves, we’ll think of it as being lucky to have him for three great years.”

Kevin​ Durant dominated​ Sunday’s All-Star Game​ while the​ buzz​ about his pending free​ agency simply dominated​​ All-Star Weekend in Charlotte. The general consensus among NBA executives, coaches and players is that if Durant were to leave the Golden State Warriors as a free agent in July, his most likely destination would be — wait for it — the New York Knicks. It gets better for fans of the team that plays at Madison Square Garden. The other big story coming out of Charlotte is that Knicks owner James Dolan, according to The Ringer’s Bill Simmons, is “courting offers” to sell the club.
2 months ago via ESPN

The New York Knicks used an image of rookie center Mitchell Robinson playing alongside the Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant in a pitch to season-ticket holders, then deleted the picture to avoid the perception that the organization had an ulterior motive in including Durant, who will be a 2019 free agent, in the pitch. “Game action photos are used all the time for marketing purposes, but given everything going on, we took the precaution of taking the photo down,” the Knicks said in a statement Sunday night. “To be clear, it was one of several rotating photos on the website.”

This season is beyond a lost cause, so from a marketing perspective, the Knicks have to look towards the future. Still, they made a curious photo choice when asking season-ticket holders to renew before a Feb. 28 deadline. Durant was conveniently included.

It’s no secret he once tried recruiting Durant to the Clippers back in 2016-17. Knicks president Steve Mills was well aware of his Durant friendship when he obtained him in the Kristaps Porzingis blockbuster 11 days ago. Is it a coincidence the Knicks have already told Jordan they want him to be part of the future despite being on the last year of a one-year contract? When asked if Durant would be a good fit in New York, Jordan said, haltingly, “I mean, he won two championships with the Warriors so I mean…” He stopped and nodded.

Ballmer showcased that part of his personality for an influential crowd earlier this season, according to sources, when he accepted an invitation to speak at the Nike global sports marketing meetings on the company’s Beaverton, Ore. campus. There was no shortage of people in the room that day who have close ties to Durant, the 30-year-old who has been with the sneaker giant since the start of his NBA career and who re-upped on a 10-year deal with the potential to be worth $300 million in 2014.

Steph Curry was asked about Durant’s frustration after the game. “Honestly, I think it’s him not being able to control his own voice,” Curry said. “He’s focused on basketball, and that’s what he should do. We want to see that KD every day. What he can’t control is BS that happens in the media or people making the decision for him or all this other stuff. “In terms of him just playing basketball, focusing on what happens out there on the 94 feet, being there for us as teammates, and us being there for him, that’s what he can control. And I think he’s doing a great job of that.

Let us be frank, with the caveat that the choice lives inside the head of one guy who can and does change his mind: Insiders around the league think Kevin Durant is leaving the Warriors for the Knicks. Most people within the Warriors either think Durant is leaving or profess not to know one way or the other. His teammates recognize this reality, can handle it and merely want one outcome: Win a championship, absent too much drama. The main concern, at the moment, is whether he’ll commit in the short term to what he may have already left in the long term.

Sources say that Durant believed his besting of LeBron James in the 2017 Finals would get him hailed as the game’s top player, a mantle he’s craved for some time. While LeBron averaged a 33.6 point-per-game triple-double in that Finals, Durant was superior defensively and hit the series’ biggest shot right in the King’s face. Instead, there was no grand reordering of rankings, and only so much credit to be had for a dominant playoff run. KD, who was “tired of being second” way back in 2013, was still stuck there reputationally, even in ultimate victory. He was still behind LeBron in the eyes of pundits, basketball Twitter, and perhaps most importantly, at Nike, who’s employed Durant longer than any team.

Sources say teammates would understand if KD left what looks like perfection. It’s just a harder sell to the public writ large. What’s the PR-friendly reason for leaving a favorite that appears primed to reign for ages? KD’s catch-22, or catch-35 if you will: He’ll likely be criticized for ring avoidance by the same people who ripped him for ring chasing. None of this would be a problem if Durant tuned out criticism, but few are better known for bathing their own wounds in salt.

He is on a $22.9 million expiring deal and will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer, so the Knicks – who have hopes of signing Durant and another max star – may not be able to bring Jordan back. But they could also use the mid-level exception (almost $9 million per season) to sign Jordan this summer, so it’s certainly possible. The Knicks have another of Durant’s buddies – Royal Ivey – as an assistant coach. Ivey and Durant were teammates on the Thunder for two seasons. Durant once called Ivey his best friend in the league.

Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers remains outwardly confident that superstar forward Kevin Durant will decide to re-sign with the team this summer. “I feel like all our players are happy and want to stay with us and continue with us,” Myers said Monday when asked about Durant’s future. “That’s how I feel. But again, I’ve only worked in the NBA as an agent and in this capacity — I thought Jacob Evans was going to be a rotation guy. I don’t know.

Conversations with NBA insiders and executives paint a positive picture for the Knicks, too. Smith is a bit of a gamble — he didn’t excel in Dallas under coach Rick Carlisle — but he has plenty of athleticism and talent. The draft picks, especially if the Western Conference stays as tough as it is today, might turn into lottery selections. But the real win is the possibilities the deal allows for this summer. The Knicks now have enough cap space to sign two players to maximum contracts. The Knicks have been considered by a lot of executives the favorite to sign Kevin Durant, and the trade might signal their confidence that he’s on his way.
3 months ago via ESPN

The idea of Durant and Irving playing together in New York had been whispered about previously. But now that the Knicks have cleared a path to signing both of them outright, it has quickly exploded into full-on speculation. It has been thought for months that Durant’s most logical destination, should he choose to leave Golden State, would be to come East and join the Knicks. Several rival teams this week said that is their full expectation — and that was before the Knicks, clearly feeling confident about their chances, used Porzingis to push all their chips to the center of the table. None of this, of course, has any impact on Golden State’s thinking, sources said. Even if Durant went to team brass and said there was no chance he was coming back this summer — and, to be clear, that hasn’t happened — it’s not as if the Warriors would consider the possibility of trading him. Their plan, as it has been all season, is to go win a third straight title this spring, see what happens this summer and then act accordingly.

Nonetheless, the plan all along has been Durant and Irving, and the Knicks have officially opened up a path to sign them. Durant has wavered between staying or leaving all season, according to league sources. His manager, Rich Kleiman, is a native New Yorker and has even joked about someday running the Knicks. Also, Durant maintains a relationship with Perry from the lone year they spent together in Seattle, and Royal Ivey—whom Durant once called his “favorite teammate ever” and “best friend in the league”—is a Knicks assistant coach. Durant’s future could largely depend on Golden State’s results this season, but New York is at least an option. Now, the Knicks can pitch Durant on coming to New York and teaming up with a proven star—not a theoretical one, like Porzingis.

All around the league, executives who are paid handsomely to track this sort of thing had the same takeaway: The Knicks, who have been widely known to be targeting Durant for so long now and whose general manager (Scott Perry) was part of the Seattle SuperSonics front office team that drafted him out of Texas in 2007, must be very confident that they’re going to get the Golden State star. Some rival executives even reported that Knicks officials themselves have been expressing a very high level of optimism on this front.

Add in the growing concern from rival teams that the Knicks will offer Kleiman a job as part of their plan, and the fact that Durant and Perry are known to still have a good relationship, and you start to understand why New York had everyone’s attention even before this monumental move. But if this truly is in the works, if Durant is planning to bounce from the Bay and take on that yeoman’s challenge of bringing glory back to the Garden, it’s just the sort of thing that will keep the Boston Celtics brass up at night from now until this summer.

The Knicks, on the other hand, haven’t been a preferred destination for years—but there are indications of that potentially changing. League sources believe they have “a strong chance” of luring Durant should he leave the Golden State Warriors this summer and that Davis is “open” to New York as a landing place as well. Throw in a pick in this year’s NBA draft that could potentially add Duke’s Zion Williamson or RJ Barrett or Murray State’s Ja Morant, and there’s finally a reason for optimism in Manhattan.
3 months ago via ESPN

For those thinking that this could be Durant’s way of starting a pathway back to the Thunder in free agency this summer, think again: There’s no interest on either side for a basketball reconciliation. Both Durant and the Thunder have moved on, with OKC reshaping a new contender around Russell Westbrook and Paul George. For Durant and the Thunder, it appears to be a one-time return engagement that centers around something they both agree on: A fondness and appreciation for Nick Collison’s career with the franchise.
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April 24, 2019 | 12:06 pm EDT Update
Following successful contested jump shots over Lillard, Westbrook would occasionally trot back on defense making the “rock the baby” gesture. For Lillard, it was not warranted, but he didn’t view it as crossing the line. “He was doing that on jump shots,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “That’s not when you’re supposed to rock the baby. You rock the baby after overpowering someone in the post. He had one layup in the post on me. Look it up. I’ll live with his jump shots. He wasn’t rocking no baby on me.”
After Westbrook scores on a player, he often gets animated, shouting and showing up opponents, and this series was no exception. “I’m not even paying attention to it,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “But when I do see it, that’s cool. He does it every game, so it doesn’t bother me. I don’t celebrate in someone’s face and try to disrespect my opponent. But if a team calls a timeout, I’ll go acknowledge the crowd and celebrate with my teammates as I’m going to the bench. I’m not going to say some wild s—. I think with him, he’s pounding his chest and talking s— and that’s what gets him going. That’s the difference between us.”
Westbrook was clearly overmatched in the series and often played into the Trail Blazers’ game plan by attempting so many jumpers. Lillard, who is perhaps the best point guard in the league not named Stephen Curry, said he wanted to dominate his position, but he never wanted to go outside of the team’s scheme to outplay Westbrook. “I took it personal from the jump, but not in the sense of a one-on-one battle with Russ,” he told Yahoo Sports. “Throughout the series, I never bought into the discussion of what people on the outside were saying about our so-called beef. It was never personal with me. I wasn’t going to come down and try to match him shot for shot. I was trying to win. And it’s not hard because it’s OK to embrace the battle. But I wasn’t emotional about it. It’s cool because I know the game is still going to be the game regardless of what he’s saying or doing. My team needs me to keep my cool and lead the right way. Nothing was going to get in the way of that.”