TORONTO – When asked if he thought the Oklahoma City Thunder would actually consider trading him, Kevin Durant responded the only way he knew how.
“I really don’t know. I doubt it, but we’ll see. I guess now that you said something, I might not be able to sleep the next few days,” said Durant with a smile during the NBA All-Star Game media availability Friday.
Durant is a franchise player and seven-time All-Star who led the Thunder to the 2012 NBA Finals and won the 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player award.
However, he is also in the last year of his contract and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski recently reported that the NBA champion Golden State Warriors are a serious contender to sign Durant. The Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers are expected to be interested as well.
Durant is having his usual stellar season, averaging 27.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the Thunder (40-14), who are third in the Western Conference. Oklahoma City can offer the most money and contract years, but the competition for his services will be fierce. It would make some sense for the Thunder to consider trading Durant instead of possibly losing him for nothing, but the franchise has not explored that option nor has it had any such discussions about it, a source told Yahoo Sports.
“I never thought about that at all,” Durant said with a laugh. “I don’t know, man. I don’t want to be moved. I want to finish this thing out with my team. I think we got a really good thing going right now, so I haven’t really thought about it.
“We never talk about that stuff, me, [general manager] Sam Presti, our assistant GM [Troy Weaver]. It’s always about how I can be better for my teammates and with my leadership skills.”
Durant was born in Washington, went to high school in Maryland and has a Maryland tattoo on his upper back. He also went to his share of Wizards games as a child, including Michael Jordan’s last game in Washington. The Wizards have been preparing behind the scenes for a serious sales pitch to persuade Durant to join them, sources told Yahoo Sports.
But regardless of his free-agency decision, Durant says he will “always be a part” of Washington.
“That’s who made me who I am,” Durant said. “I walked those streets. I took that subway to the MCI Center, back when it was the MCI Center where the Washington Wizards played and the [WNBA’s] Mystics [played]. I’m always going to be a part of that community no matter what. That’s where I grew up. That’s where I honed my skills. That’s where I became a man.”
Still, Durant is well aware of all he has with the Thunder and what they have built.
“If you get an opportunity to kind of choose your environment, no matter who you are, no matter what the environment, you always want to be stable, you always want good people around you and you always want to work with great people,” Durant said. “That is how it is in Oklahoma City. Great people. Great working environment. Great living.”
As stressful as free agency can be, there is one facet that Durant has seemingly warmed to.
“I will tell you one thing, it’s great to feel wanted,” Durant said. “… I’ve heard so many rumors or whatever. It’s good for people to say this team wants me or that team wants me. That’s what you want as a player is for everybody to respect you and really admire how you play basketball.
“But at the same time, man, my focus has just being the best player I can be for my teammates. I got a lot of responsibility as the big brother and leader of our team. That takes a lot of focus anyway. It’s tough”
The pending retirement of fellow All-Star Kobe Bryant had several All-Stars talking introspectively about their futures. Durant is only 27 years old, with a lot of basketball expected to be ahead of him. But when he does retire, he would like to join an NBA front office and make the kind of difficult decisions teams will face at the Feb. 18 trade deadline.
“Playing the game and just knowing NBA life and what it takes to put together a good team, that would be fun to do,” Durant said. “Of course, it’s a lot more work than what I am thinking about right now.
“But from the outside looking in, it looks like it’s a fun job managing money and putting together a great team, chemistry-wise and basketball-wise. That would be fun. But it’s still a long way away.”
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