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OAKLAND, Calif. – The 2018-19 NBA season could very well be Kevin Durant’s final year with the Golden State Warriors.
But while he’s still under contract, the defending champs are well within their right to kick off their recruitment of Durant early.
“I don’t need [to be recruited], I don’t need to feel appreciated,” Durant told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday after a 108-100 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on opening night. “I don’t need anything extra [from the Warriors]. I’m just here to hoop and win games. I already know what this organization is about.”
Still, it looked as though the Warriors had already initiated Operation: Retain KD before tipoff at Oracle Arena. Durant, who can decline his $31.5 million player option for the 2019-20 season and become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019, was surprisingly the last player introduced to the sold-out crowd during the team’s championship ring ceremony.
That last slot is typically designated for Stephen Curry, the cornerstone of the franchise and leader of its historic turnaround. However, team officials insist Durant getting the final call was not a recruiting tactic, but simply a decision to rotate the players.
When asked at his postgame news conference about being announced last, Durant responded: “I don’t know. What did you think?” The reporter followed up by asking if it meant anything special.
“You ask the question like it did,” Durant replied. “No.”
The 6-foot-11 forward would be the No. 1 free agent on the market and speculation on his next destination should run rampant all season. With only one contest in the books, Durant said he’s already had it with free-agency questions.
“I just want people to focus on basketball,” Durant told Yahoo Sports after posting 27 points, eight rebounds and six assists. “Focus on what goes on the court. I know it’s hard to keep up with it. I know it’s easy to look at that type of [expletive] because it’s the entertainment side. But wait until the season is over with to analyze [free agency]. I know it’s your job and it’s hard to say that, but try to shift some of your focus to the court, too. I know you have to still do your job and check on stuff like that, but every day? Every city I go to? Come on, man. I said what I had to say at media day. I understand your job, but let’s come to a little agreement. Don’t ask me every time you see me. If it’s the first time I’m seeing y’all, I don’t mind answering. But every time? Come on, bro.”
Oklahoma City All-Star forward Paul George dealt with a similar situation last year when he was constantly bombarded with questions about his pending free agency.
“I think it’s simple for KD. I think he just tells people one time and one time only. He’ll deal with that when the time comes,” George told Yahoo Sports. “In his mind right now, they’re focusing on a three-peat, they’re focusing on defending that title. That’s the only thing the media needs to worry about. Regardless of if he stays or if he goes, he gave them three great years. That’s what the Bay has to be proud of.”
The New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers will take a run at the back-to-back Finals MVP, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Personnel from the Clippers are expected to attend a high number of Warriors games this season, sources said.
Rival executives are of the belief that Durant, unlike the previous two summers he hit free agency with the Warriors, might be swayed to leave the Bay Area this time around.
The Warriors will attempt to retain him at all costs with their move to the new Chase Center in San Francisco scheduled for the 2019-20 season. It will be imperative that a championship-caliber roster is there from the beginning. The Warriors are great without Durant, but have proven to be unstoppable with him.
Until July 1 rolls around, the questions regarding his future will continue to surface. But don’t expect Durant to entertain the inquires in an amiable fashion.
“It depends on how I feel that day,” Durant told Yahoo Sports. “If I’m in a [expletive]-up mood, you’re going to see. Ask me that question and you’re going to really see what mood I’m in.”
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