Kevin Durant, in essence, just thanked fans and media for not being really, really annoying in regards to his upcoming free agency.
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For not making his life an unending stream of questions regarding a massive career decision that he has not only (and understandably) yet to make, but one he still has until July to consider. Or longer, if he doesn’t feel like making the biggest decision of his professional lifetime in a quick, first-week-in-July span.
(Not that Durant and his camp haven’t been working on this for years, but you get my drift. My NBA-legal, texts-ain’t-tampering, drift.)
With the Clippers in Oklahoma City, set to take on Durant’s Thunder Wednesday in a nationally televised game, the Orange County Register’s Dan Woike spoke to the 2014 NBA MVP about the relative lack of clatter surrounding what could be his final year in OKC:
“I wouldn’t say it’s been totally quiet, but it’s been cool,” Durant said Tuesday after shooting down the most recent rumor. “It’s been different. I was expecting a lot, every city I go to, everybody would ask questions, but it’s been pretty quiet.”
“Everyone makes their rumors this time of year and everybody wants the clicks for their stories. That’s a part of it. I had nothing to do with that. I can’t control it.”
If you’ll recall, Grant Hill politely spent the bulk of his 1999-00 season telling local reporters in every city his Pistons visited that he’d make his own impending free agent decision in the summer, because for the time being there was basketball to play. It was a grating element in what sadly turned out to be Hill’s last dominant, healthy season.
Kevin Durant shares something in common with James in that his Thunder are championship contenders, as James’ 2010 Cavaliers were. LeBron’s supporting cast was far less, um, impactful as Durant’s current teammates, but there is the idea that Oklahoma City could play until June to consider.
What is different, this time around, is that unlike Hill and James heaps of NBA teams will have cap room to chase Durant down with. Not all will be flush with max space – as the Heat, Bulls, Knicks and Nets were in 2010 – but plenty will be just a trade or two away, as the league’s salary cap rises to over $90 million this summer.
Portland and Utah could offer Kevin Durant a max deal this summer, they have the cap space and an intriguing roster full of near-All-Stars (tell Damian Lillard about it) that the still-27 Durant could glom onto. And yet you don’t see heaps of scribes in either outpost bugging the All-Star about it. Local Guys are just going to be met with rolled eyes if they ask about the chances for Durant to skip to their town.
Part of the reason is that NBA coverage has gone so national in the age of the internet. Beat writers have to consider the reaction from the other 28 NBA towns when they put pen to paper, as the internet has changed things. Few (save for this lump of coal) were writing about the league exclusively online during Hill’s tour, and coverage (including social media outlets) was still getting its act together in 2009-10.
One of the guys that always had his act together, The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, confirmed what many have been talking about since last summer – the idea that Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors could find a way to make an agreement after the presumed champs make some space-clearing maneuvers.
That stuff is the real deal, and luckily we haven’t had to sit through many out and out ultimatums from some outlets about how they know Durant is set to do something. Save for a recent report from Joel Meyers about how Kevin would leave if the Thunder failed to advance to the Finals (KD, to Woike: “I never said that; I never thought that,”), and whatever twaddle Stephen A. Smith is still peddling.
(And if you’re still “sitting though” Stephen A. Smith in 2016, man, let’s get it together. Take a shower. Open the blinds.)
This is a credit to the modern media, not dogging Durant with the same questions he has no real answer for, and Durant himself. He hasn’t made a show out of it, he hasn’t turned this into a recruitment tour, and he’s kept his team on a 57-win pace while averaging over 28 points, eight rebounds and 4.7 assists. All while working his way back from what became a frightening series of foot ailments in 2014-15.
The Thunder have worked through an embarrassing few weeks, losing routinely in close games against top opponents. And, because they’re the Thunder and employ Kevin Durant, each of these games has been on national TV. Rookie coach Billy Donovan has struggled at times to recognize his best rotations, and the team has sunk like a stone defensively over the last month, but this is still a squad that features Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka. Alongside several other intriguing contributors.
Durant knows this. He knows that the Lakers are years away (if that), the Knicks are a joke, Miami probably can’t pay him a max deal, and that Washington has myriad issues to work through until it can stumble its way into a pitch. Golden State would be the leader, but that’s only if Durant turns down more money to stay in Oklahoma City.
(And, if we’re honest, there’s always the nagging feeling that Durant’s position with the Warriors would be rather superfluous. Golden State doesn’t really need any more offense, especially at the expense of any combination of Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut and Shaun Livingston. It’s true that Dre, Bogut and Livingston are getting on in years, but Golden State might be better off re-distributing any Durant funds toward their eventual replacements.)
(Unless, of course, the Utah Jazz suddenly un-retire Darrell Griffith’s number. Then you’ll know something’s up.)
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