Storyline: Kevin Durant to Knicks?

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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 weeks 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.
3 weeks 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.
4 months ago via ESPN

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.”
4 months ago via ESPN

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.
4 months ago via ESPN

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.
8 months ago via ESPN

I have no idea. I do know that Rich Kleiman, Durant’s business manager, is from New York. Scott Perry, New York’s GM, was an executive with the Seattle SuperSonics when they drafted Durant and remains close with him. New York will obviously have company pitching Durant, if he hears pitches. (Golden State’s new arena doesn’t open until the 2019-20 season; who could blame Durant for wanting to play in it?) Those suitors will bring track records of basic competency the Dolan-era Knicks have rarely achieved. But New York will try. Next summer is going to be a whirlwind. Rest up.

Ian Begley: Here’s Knicks GM Steve Mills on the club not getting a free agent meeting with Kevin Durant: “We knew that KD wanted to go to a team that he felt like had a chance to win the championship this upcoming season and we didn’t fit that bill. But we know that if he had made a decision to do a one and one (with OKC) that we would have a meeting with him because then we would have been one of those teams he would think about for the following year,” Mills said. “…. When he made the decision to go to Golden State…my assumption is that he would stay there.”

Kevin Durant: No meeting scheduled with Knicks

According to a source, Phil Jackson told Derrick Rose of his plan to pursue Kevin Durant starting on July 1st. That in of itself may be the worst-kept secret in the NBA, along with the notion that Golden State, San Antonio, Miami and both Los Angeles clubs are also planning to recruit Durant. The difference now, however, is that the Knicks are not only selling Durant on Madison Square Garden and Madison Avenue, but also a roster that features a triangle we can all understand; Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Rose, who turns 28 in October.

Asked specifically if the Knicks will target Kevin Durant, whose father is reportedly a Knicks fan, Hornacek demured somewhat, probably because it is tampering to talk about other team’s players before free agency begins July 1. “No, we haven’t talked about the free agency stuff yet,” Hornacek said. “That’s July 1st. Obviously there’s a lot of players out there that we’d love to have if we can get a chance to at least talk to them. We have some money so hopefully we can get a player to fill in for us.”

Wizards, Celtics, Heat, Knicks, Lakers, Clippers, Rockets, Spurs and, yes, Warriors … that’s merely where the list of teams known to be actively seeking the chance to court KD face-to-face stands. Aggressive teams like the Raptors and Blazers will presumably try their luck too. And there will surely be others we don’t see yet. As one member of the fallen visitors’ inner circle noted after Durant’s fourth-quarter surge couldn’t quite deny the Warriors in Game 7: It’s far easier to make a list of the teams that won’t have the requisite cap space and ambition to try their luck in a month, thanks to the forthcoming Crazy Cap Spike of 2016, than a list of teams that do.

“I spent some nice time up here playing basketball in New York City. Some of the most memorable times in my life was coming up here, playing outside, just getting the pure love of the game up here. I remember that, always going to remember that the rest of my life and tell my kids about that when I get older. I come from Maryland. We know how big basketball is here. Of course I enjoy playing here and the Garden. Every movie you watch, you had a scene playing basketball in the Garden. Everything reverts back to being in the Garden, whether [it’s] musicians, basketball players. To play here is just a blessing.’’
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February 22, 2019 | 9:34 pm EST Update