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“I’m not ruling out the Knicks, but I think the Nets are the front-runners and people are not giving them their [respect],” Perkins said. “Sources tell me the Nets are the front-runner.”
As recently as Wednesday, there was a belief among several NBA teams that even if Irving joined Brooklyn, Durant would still come to the Knicks. It’s hard to believe that scenario, since the word for months has been that Durant and Kyrie wanted to join forces and not sign with opposing teams in the same city. But it’s that time of year and every day the scenarios change.
“I’m told KD is doing a lot of soul searching right now,” Woj said. “You know. stepping back from the injury. processing all of this. KD can go back to Golden State on a five year, $200 million plus deal that gives him absolute assurance that coming off his Achilles injury, that maybe gives him something else to think about, staying in Golden State, but Brooklyn and the Knicks are very much in the fight to get Kevin Durant.”
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.
According to Ric Bucher of Fox Sports, the Durant-Irving pairing idea still has legs and New York seems to be where the landing spot will be. “I’m told Kevin Durant has moved all his stuff to New York and will spend the summer there,” Bucher said on The Herd. “He and Kyrie have met and have continued to discuss playing together… Every indication says KD is making plans to be elsewhere.”
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.
Tommy Beer: Interesting insight from Chris Carter this morning on @FTFonFS1. Carter, who is very close w/ Kawhi Leonard and his camp, said that: “I believe the Knicks have a shot to land Kawhi and KD.” And added that Kawhi and Durant teaming up in New York is a “real possibility.”
While Durant’s flirtation with New York has been immersed in talk of branding deals and production opportunities, there is a contingent in the Knicks front office that is enamored not just with Leonard’s two-way talents on the court, but with the fact that he would bring little drama with him.
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.
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.
Problem is, at various points during the season, I have heard trusted insiders state with conviction that Durant is already planning to join the Knicks … and then that he is likely to consider the Nets as well … and now that he is eyeing the Clippers just as intently as New York.
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?
While it’s possible that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving play together in 2019, the New York Knicks are reportedly not the only option. Marc Stein of the New York Times said Tuesday that the Brooklyn Nets are also in play for the All-Star duo. “[Durant and Irving] might be a package deal, but they’re going to look at the Nets just as hard as the Knicks,” Stein said on the Stephen A Smith Show.
While discussing the possibility of the Warriors winning the NBA Finals without Durant — who currently is out with a calf strain — Cowherd said an “NBA veteran” slid into his DMs and told him Durant is “100 percent” going to the Knicks and has even started recruiting other players.
“From everything that I’ve been hearing over the last few days, Kyrie Irving is heading to New York City,” Smith said. “Kyrie Irving is heading to Madison Square Garden with Kevin Durant. People in his inner circle are trying to bring the Nets into the mix, but clearly New York is the destination. The likelihood is it will be MSG.”
Stephen A. Smith: Yes. From everything I’ve heard, KD and Kyrie are planning on coming to New York. 95% Chance they say! Only potential hiccup is KD changing his mind
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 Knicks finished with an NBA-worst 17-65 record which tied the lowest mark in franchise history. Knicks officials have maintained extreme positivity over the future with a top-five draft pick in June and cap space for two max free-agent players in July. If Kevin Durant lands here, it’s already being speculated among industry insiders he’d host his own show on MSG Network.
Some of Durant’s former teammates think it’s going to happen, per ESPN sources. Several of his current teammates have told friends that they think it’s going to happen, sources said. Opposing agents believe it’s a fait accompli: “Just a matter of putting pen to paper,” is how one agent of another top free agent in the 2019 free agent class put it.
One opposing executive monitoring Durant’s situation closely believes that the opportunity to win in New York — and push the notion that he jumped on the bandwagon to win rings in Oakland from the forefront of fans’ consciousness — is a pull for the two-time Finals MVP. “Winning there would change the narrative around him,” one executive said.
League sources know how much Durant cares about his image and legacy and reveres the allure of New York City’s sports stage as a product of a tough Washington area upbringing.
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.
“From everything I’ve heard, it’s done. Yes, he’s leaving… If he so much as gets [the Knicks] into the Conference Finals, he will be beloved there like he never has been at Golden State after 2 Championships.” @RicBucher on Kevin Durant’s free agency
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.
Jimmy Traina: More Barkley: ” I dont think Durant or Kyrie are tough enough to play in NY. Kyrie’s a very good player. Kevin’s a great, great player. But Im not sure they have the mental make up to play in NY. Those guys are complaining about the media asking questions. Maybe NY isnt for them.
David Locke: What are Kevin Durant’s chances of staying with the Warriors next year? Sam Amick: I’m gonna say 15 [percent]. Locke: Your best guess of where Durant plays next year? Amick: New York.
David Locke: Does Kyrie Irving play with Kevin Durant next year? Sam Amick: This is where it gets tricky. I say no and now I don’t know who Kevin’s playing with and now I don’t feel great about my last answer. I was just around Boston and Kyrie took a turn for the better, and so that’s where it gets tricky. I know for a fact, they [New York] are searching for who that second guy would be if it’s not gonna be Kyrie.
Diamond Leung: Stephen A. Smith: “They’re doing something nice in Brooklyn…Everybody talking about (Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and others) going to the New York Knicks. You know what folks have said to me? “Excuse me, we said New York, who said the Knicks?” espn.com/espnradio/play…
“Do I think a team like the Knicks has a very high level of optimism that wouldn’t be there if some reason for optimism had not been conveyed to them?” Amick said via a conference call on The Rich Eisen Show. “No, I do not believe they’re doing this of their own accord entirely to best position themselves to get two specific max players.
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.”
The Knicks Wall: Lowe on Porzingis wanting out: “I don’t think he was psyched about playing with Durant. I don’t know how directly that was verbalized to the Knicks, but I’m confident that it wasn’t something that was his Plan A, he wanted to be the face of the franchise.”
There’s been speculation that Durant’s agent, New York-based Rich Kleiman, could join the Knicks front office if Durant comes. One NBA source believes Durant may want Cook to follow him to his next stop, too. Cook and Durant were part of the same AAU system, playing for the P.G. Jaguars.
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.
With speculation that Kevin Durant will join New York Knicks this summer heating up ahead of the all-star break, former Pacers great Reggie Miller says to pump the breaks on Durant leaving the Warriors for the Big Apple. “Personally, I can’t see him going to New York,” Miller said in a Turner Sports conference call with former Kings forward Chris Webber.
“If he’s a little surly and upset about what The Athletic wrote about him, if he gets a couple of bad games in New York, under that microscope, he’s really going to be upset,” Miller said. “So you got to factor everything when you’re joining the New York Knicks – the number one media market in the world and in our game. You can’t be upset with the media when you’re back to back NBA champion and back to back Finals MVPs.”
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.”
Stefan Bondy: Knicks statement on including KD’s photo in season ticket promotion: “Game action photos are used all the time for marketing purposes, but given everything going on, we took precaution of taking the photo down. To be clear, it was one of several rotating photos on the website.”
Nick Friedell: Durant said he just wants to focus on basketball. Didn’t want to discuss the Knicks. Believes the media has read into his words too much. That was the most frustrated I’ve ever seen him in a press conference setting.
Nick Friedell: Durant speaks. Says he doesn’t trust the media. He feels his words have been twisted. Spoke for about three minutes and left.
Connor Letourneau: Kevin Durant just walked out of his presser after a heated exchange with media about reports on his free agency. Here’s the beginning of the exchange: pic.twitter.com/asH19fGZKv
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.
The Knicks acquired something else while trading Kristaps Porzingis: a conduit and recruiter to Kevin Durant. New York’s line on DeAndre Jordan is they hope he can mentor their young centers, but, as the Daily News has learned, the Knicks also view him as an asset in their pursuit of Durant.
Jordan, after all, is close with Durant and served a similar role while with the Clippers in the summer of 2016. Durant ultimately signed with the Warriors, but cited Jordan as the reason he even considered L.A.’s stepchild franchise.
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.
The New York Knicks traded Kristaps Porzingis for a package that included DeAndre Jordan, who may actually help them land Kevin Durant. Brian Windhorst mentioned that New York plans to keep the two-time NBA rebounding leader, though many have expected Jordan to end up as a buyout candidate.
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.
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.
New York will target the top players on the market, which is expected to include Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving. Some close to Durant see New York as a possible landing spot for the back-to-back NBA Finals MVP if he chooses to leave Golden State, according to league sources.
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 ….”
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.
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.”
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.'”
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 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.
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.
Sporting News: Knicks fans are already recruiting Kevin Durant.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
Diamond Leung: Enes Kanter to SiriusXM on Kevin Durant: “Who wouldn’t want KD to wear the New York uniform?…We are New York. I think we need to use that. I mean, we are the best city in the world, so I think that can draw a lot of attention for free agency.”
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.
Frazier was asked on the radio show if it was realistic to think that Durant, Kyrie Irving or Jimmy Butler — all potential free agents in 2019 — would sign with the Knicks. “Probably 50-50,” Frazier said. “You never know what these guys are thinking today. It’s not something that I would have done. I would have never joined [Jerry] West or [Bill] Russell or [Wilt] Chamberlain. I wanted to kick their butt.
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.
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.
Zach Lowe: “Kevin Durant is gonna be the single biggest story in the NBA for the next year now that [LeBron James has made his move to the Lakers]. And if you don’t think that all of these teams – like if you think the Knicks noise is bogus, it’s not. I’m not saying [Durant is going the Knicks], I’m saying they’re planning their [next] offseason around him. 100 percent.”
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June 24, 2019 | 9:42 pm EDT Update
969 The Game: “He will not play at all in the Summer League.” -John Hammond on Markelle Fultz’s injury situation.
Kent Bazemore: Atlanta, I dont even know where to start. Want to thank the @atlhawks for the a tremendous run over the past five years. Lots of roots planted in this city! To the front office and management, thank you putting me in a situation to thrive! #RIPCITY LETS GET IT!! @Portland Trail Blazers pic.twitter.com/JoR49ol0sd
Andy Larsen: Mike Conley, on when he learned about the trade: “I was actually traveling to my mom’s house in Fayetteville, Arkansas and got off the plane & found out I had been traded. It happened so quick. I kinda expected it, but once it happened, all of the emotions and feelings came in.”