Storyline: Kevin Durant to Knicks?

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The Knicks would still sign Durant as a solo act, per league source, willing to swallow another lousy season developing prospects while being opportunistic in the trade market. But the Knicks have to be nervous about the influence of Irving, who could pull Durant to Brooklyn, leaving the Knicks empty handed and the world wondering (again) why they made the Porzingis trade in the first place.

The Knicks, it is believed by some around the league, will continue to try to sign Durant. But the injury has at least jumbled up this offseason as of now. The executive thought Durant was going to New York before Game 5 but is no longer sure. Maybe Durant opts in for the last year on his contract at $31.5 million (The Athletic’s Warriors beat reporter Anthony Slater called this the least likely outcome). Maybe he re-signs with the Warriors at the five-year, $221 million max. Or he decides to leave anyway. The Nets and Clippers lurk as possible destinations too.

Likewise, multiple league sources also told Yahoo Sports they believe the Knicks will still offer an injured Durant a max deal when free agency opens June 30. “What you don’t know is what promises have been made,” one source told Yahoo Sports. “Have the Knicks and Clippers already made such promises? If not, are they willing to get two and a half to three years out of a guy on a four-year contract? Achilles tears take a year out of you and put your other Achilles at a much greater risk.”

Of course, the hope for Durant — and for anyone who enjoys NBA basketball — is that the injury isn’t as severe as feared. But if it is indeed a torn Achilles — and if Durant declines his $31.5 million player option for next season — any team interested in signing Durant would have to be comfortable with him possibly being sidelined for the first year of his contract. Would the Knicks, who have enough cap space to sign two max free agents, be comfortable with that scenario? We’ll find out in a few weeks, but there are indeed some members of the organization who would consider offering Durant a contract this summer, per SNY sources. Durant is eligible for a four-year, $141 million max contract from New York or any other team looking to sign him away from the Warriors.

Kevin Durant is one of the top free agents on the market, and is expected to give the Knicks strong consideration if he decides to leave Golden State. If Durant asked Charles Barkley about signing with the Knicks as a free agent, here is what Barkley would tell him: “Well I’d say, ‘Kevin you’re one of the greatest players I’ve ever seen. You’ve also got some of the thinnest skin I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if you’re made for New York City,” Barkley said on a conference call to promote American Century Championship golf tournament. “I think that would be the toughest aspect.

“If he’s arguing with these teenagers online, he’s not going to be able to deal with that New York media. He’s a great person, he’s a great player. I don’t think he has the mental makeup to play in New York, that’s just my personal opinion.” The sensitivity Barkley references is a widely-held, if subjective, view of Durant, of course. The TNT analyst is likely referencing Durant’s use of a burner account on social media to respond to critics and other engagement with critics on social media.

Clippers in the mix for Kevin Durant?

As for the bigger-picture matter of Durant’s future: I am unafraid to announce, with no trace of hot-takery, that firm predictions about what Durant will do when free agency starts in 40 days are ill-advised. Within the last month, very smart and plugged-in people I have consulted say that the Los Angeles Clippers have emerged as an equally dangerous threat to the Knicks to sign Durant away from Golden State. And I believe it.

For now it is all speculation, but there were anonymous whispers asking if it was true that the Knicks and Durant had already held a secret meeting, that a handshake deal was already in place and that endorsement deals were already ironed out. It wasn’t just talk about the Knicks securing the services of Durant, but that the elite scorer is bolting the Warriors despite all of the success. No one would put a name on their thoughts, but they did at least in their minds, figure out the hardest part of the Durant free agency question: why would he leave the Warriors?

Team officials and rival executives alike have been predicting Kevin Durant’s departure in free agency for months now – cue Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, “New York…concrete jungle where dreams are made of…” But there’s a recent sense in Warriors circles that maybe he’ll think twice about joining them on this trek across the Bay Bridge, that this recent stretch of domination and fan appreciation might be the kind of thing that convinces him to – cue LeBron James’ personal motto that hasn’t exactly panned out in Laker Land – RWTW (Roll With The Winners).

Then again, there was this sighting after Game 5 that is sure to warm the hearts of Warriors fans: Rich Kleiman, Durant’s New York-born-and-bred right-hand man and business manager whose ties to the Knicks have been well chronicled, was wearing one of those team-issued yellow Warriors t-shirts. “(Durant) has been great,” Looney said. “He’s been a great leader. He’s been talking. He’s been one of the anchors of our defense and our offense, and he’s been doing it on both ends of the floor. You saw after (Game 2 against the Clippers), you saw him just flip a switch and he’s been taking over. We’ve been feeding off of him, following his energy and he’s been doing a great job.”

Thompson said he thinks “it’s not a question’’ Durant has a thin skin and it could be a small factor in concerns about playing in New York. “What he’s been through in his life, he thinks he can handle anything,’’ Thompson said. “But I do wonder if he is concerned about New York as a good fit for that. But those are minor parts. The bigger story is what is at play. In exchange for media criticism, more media interaction and media issues, he could get the final story that perfectly fits his legacy in the grand scheme and it could be worth it. If he went to New York it wouldn’t be about anything small. It will be about the big picture, the end of a story he started at [the age of] 9.’’

The Durant rumors started before the Knicks played a game, and point guard Emmanuel Mudiay was aware of it. He spoke to SI TV about it, and while this was not a distraction, it became a difficult topic to ignore: “I wouldn’t say it’s weird. I would say it’s kind of expected. It could get weird for a rookie or a second-year guy. Just because you’re not really used to that, but at the same time, that’s just what the media is going to do. They’re going to try to build up a story, and that’s their job. That’s what they have to do, so you kind of just have to keep your head down and finish out the season and play every day as if he’s not there — which he’s not there yet. “Is that someone New York definitely wants? No doubt, with what he’s done in his career. The scorer he is. The type of player he is. The type of person he is. I wouldn’t say it’s a distraction, but I would say you can’t miss it.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.
7 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.”

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.

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.

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.
8 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.

When asked directly if he would confirm the scuttlebutt the Knicks would be in play, Durant said: “I have no clue where that stuff comes from. I just focus on playing ball every single day. I can’t control what people say about me, or what they say about our future and what I should do. I come to work every single day, and life will figure itself out.” Durant was then asked how it feels to be peppered with New York questions. “I just got to do it,” Durant said. “You guys asked for me, I got to talk. If I don’t, I’ll get fined. That’s all. So I’m just trying to be as honest as I can about the question but also give you what you need for your job but also not say anything that’ll ….”

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.

Kevin Durant to Knicks a long shot?

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.”

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.'”

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.

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.

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.”

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.

Clips to chase KD

“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.

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.

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.
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September 20, 2019 | 7:54 am EDT Update

Klay Thompson plans to play in 2020 Olympics

The 2014 World Cup was memorable for Curry and Thompson because they bonded off the court in Spain, something they don’t get to do much normally. Thompson said it would be a dream to share a backcourt with Curry in Tokyo. “That would be amazing,” Thompson said. “Amazing. Because even when we played in the World Championships together, we were barely on the floor together.” Thompson is the latest star to express a desire to play in the Olympics, joining Curry and Damian Lillard.
This rumor is part of a storyline: 8 more rumors
Despite their intentions, Curry and Thompson playing in the Olympics can’t be considered a lock. If the Warriors somehow went on a deep run into the postseason, it would be their sixth straight year doing so. Turning around and going to Japan to play more might be untenable. Thus, an early postseason exit might be required for their hopes to be fulfilled. Plus, Thompson’s availability will be contingent upon his recovery from a torn ACL.
One former Eastern Conference general manager that spoke to HoopsHype believes Siakam has a strong case to earn a max extension this summer. “Siakam has a legit case for a max,” he said. “Would I give the max to any of the other players up for extensions? Hell no. I consider these factors: whether the player has an impact on winning, whether he is a great fit for our culture, whether he still has room for growth and whether he can be the best player on a championship-caliber team.”
A Western Conference coach agreed: “With Toronto in the situation that they’re in, no longer having Kawhi Leonard or Danny Green, Pascal Siakam may be a safe bet for them and they may want to give him a max extension to lock him up. I’ve been impressed with his development; he’s improved into a highly, highly serviceable player who’s very efficient and does a lot for that team. From the outside looking in, it seems like he’ll be able to continue his development too. He seems highly motivated and very grateful to be in the situation he’s in and he doesn’t take anything for granted.”
Another Western Conference executive agreed that he’s not worth the max, telling HoopsHype: “Out of Pascal Siakam, Jaylen Brown, Brandon Ingram and Buddy Hield, , I don’t think any of them will get the max or deserve the max. If I was running each team, I would force them to play it out. In some situations, keeping their cap holds is so much more beneficial. You should only extend if you get a below-market-value deal or if it’s a no-brainer extension.”
Q: P.J. Tucker has said he would seek a contract extension but has two seasons remaining on his contract. Assuming agreement on the terms, would that make sense to have his contract line up with the rest of your core players? Or could you just guarantee the second year and deal with it with one season left as you did with Eric Gordon? Daryl Morey: We’re open to the concept of extensions early. We have done it with players in the past. Normally, it’s the James Harden type players. We’re open to it. That said, I have found you don’t really get to an agreement with what both sides are looking at to how the extension can work realistically until you are one year out. I wouldn’t expect any other extension from us this year, mostly because everyone is signed for multiple years.