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Kevin Durant is out for the year due to ongoing foot issues, but he remains near the center of the NBA universe. With just one more season remaining on his contract until the 26-year-old superstar becomes an unrestricted free agent during the largest salary-cap increase ever, many teams and interested observers are keeping an eye on everything KD says or does for potential insight into his pending decision. Every statement counts when so much is at stake.
Of course, some comments appear more meaningful than others. Such is the case with a recent interview that Durant gave with Revolt TV in February. While the content touches on everything from Black History Month to the fellow players he respects most, it is getting attention several weeks later for the reigning MVP's comments on what it would be like to play with one franchise for his whole career. Royce Young of ESPN.com has the quotes:
"I love it here, man. I love my teammates, I love the city, I don't really think about anywhere else," Durant told Revolt TV in a recent interview. "I hear it all the time, don't get me wrong, and once you hear it you're kind of like [looks up, thinking]. But for me, I love staying in the moment, and I'm one of those guys that would love to stick it out with one team my whole career.
"Kobe [Bryant], Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki type. That's awesome," he said. "But you never know what the future holds sometimes and how teams may feel about you after a while, but I love it here and I would love to get my jersey retired here."
These words should serve as a positive sign for Thunder fans, because it is clear that Durant looks at his experience with the franchise as a good one and would like to keep the relationship going past his retirement. A player would not say such things if he had one foot out the door.
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But that doesn't mean Durant is absolutely staying in town, as certain reactions to these statements suggest. For one thing, he said these things at least a month ago and may have changed his mind, just as he apparently did between a controversial GQ interview earlier this season and this exchange with Revolt. Plus, while Durant says he would love to stay with the Thunder, it is not presented as a certainty, but as a sort of ideal scenario in which the priorities of team and player stay the same forever. If Durant presents Kobe, Duncan, and Dirk as ideals, then it's at least in part because those players have continued to win and have remained comfortable with their teams. It's also not as if those relationships have been perfect all the time — depending on whom you ask, each of that trio has been on the brink of changing sides at least once in his career.
The point here is not that Kevin Durant is hiding his true emotions under a veil of positivity, but that any one statement in a free-agent process must be taken in the context of all the others. As we learned with LeBron James last year (and then in 2010 before that), a free agent's mind can change quickly and ultimately depend on factors that are not even well publicized until after he makes his decision. It's fair to pay attention to everything Durant says — he's a very important player heading into a virtually unprecedented situation — but it's wrong to jump to conclusions. Nothing will be settled until KD signs his next contract.
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