The Golden State Warriors’ plan of pursuit predates their 2015 championship run, a bold plot to declare the futility of resistance. It isn’t only that the NBA champions are determined to recruit Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant. The truth is that they’re the most intriguing destination to him. If Durant leaves the Thunder, the Warriors are the significant frontrunners to sign him, league sources told The Vertical.
The Warriors already have everything and yet they’re threatening to take more now. Steph Curry. Klay Thompson. Draymond Green. Committed ownership. Bob Myers, the executive of the year. Steve Kerr, a championship coach. Yes, Golden State has everything, including the ability to create the salary-cap space and a belief that Durant’s persona could fit seamlessly – even onto a potential two-time defending champion.
Make no mistake: Durant isn’t close to gone in Oklahoma City – no decision, no leaning, sources said – but the real threats on the summer market are beginning to reveal themselves. Durant is determined to win – to be an immediate championship contender at 27 years old – and that keeps bringing him back to the Warriors should he make the decision to leave Oklahoma City.
Outside of a Thunder championship closing down the process before July 1, there’s a strong expectation that Durant will hit the road, tour campuses and become a recruit again.
The big free agents, they’re forever living one of two things in the months leading into summer: searching for reasons to stay, or searching for reasons to leave. Durant has always been looking for reasons to stay. He adores the Oklahoma City community and holds a fondness for the franchise, but Durant is chasing championships, chasing a legacy.
This limits his choices, leaving the Los Angeles Lakers with little, if any, chance.
The Warriors will never speak of Durant’s name on the record – that’s league tampering, of course – but they know of whom you’re referring when you ask about the Warriors’ appeal to a superstar free agent. Even now, Durant represents something of the Warriors’ private bravado.
Think we’re unbeatable now?
“We’re all about winning,” Draymond Green told The Vertical. “One thing guys on this team don’t care about is who is getting the shots, or who is scoring. Guys definitely want to play here, play with us. We’re smiling. We’re having fun. You can tell that. I definitely think it’s become one of those places where guys will want to play.”
Perhaps no Warriors player would sacrifice so much on a personal level, yet Green is unflinching in his support of signing Durant, league sources told The Vertical. He’s expected to be a tenacious recruiter of Durant for the Warriors’ contingent. There are several moves the Warriors can make to maneuver the roster to clear a maximum salary slot for Durant. To have the chance to incorporate a superstar in full sprint onto the NBA’s best team, well, it’s practically unprecedented.
Here’s something else, too: Durant is forever searching for spiritual people in his life. It is a common thread of those who’ve found ways into Durant’s circle. It makes Steph Curry the most dangerous recruiter in the world on several levels: His prodigious talent, peaceful soul and grounded life.
“We obviously have a very appealing and attractive team and organization,” Golden State owner Joe Lacob told The Vertical.
“… We have a team – and a team concept,” Lacob said. “We’re proud of that. Proud of the way the coaching staff coaches that way, the players play that way. And our leader, Steph, epitomizes that. I do think that they all just want to win. That’s our mantra for the whole organization. I think anybody could feel comfortable coming onto this team.”
The Warriors have a billion-dollar arena on the horizon in downtown San Francisco, expensive seats and suites to fill, a monster of a local television deal to feed. Golden State’s core is young, and Durant’s disposition fits the Warriors’ culture. He has won his scoring titles. He needs a legacy and believes fully that has to include multiple titles. He doesn’t want to wait for a new team to form around him, which is why it will still be hard to lure him from the Thunder.
The Durant circle has closed considerably. His business manager, Charlie Bell, and agent, Rich Kleiman, are the primary non-family confidants. The free-agency process never starts on July 1; planning and preparation are always in the works months and months prior to the summer.
Outside of those well-known suitors – Washington, Houston and Miami – there’s another California team determined to make a bid for Durant, league sources tell The Vertical: The Los Angeles Clippers. If the opportunity comes to move Blake Griffin and replace him with Durant, the Clippers won’t hesitate, sources said.
Teams are calling on Griffin trades now, but Clippers president and coach Doc Rivers seems determined to play the year out with Griffin and see how far the team advances in the playoffs. Eventually, the Clippers will determine how intrigued Durant might be in becoming a Big Three with Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan.
The Thunder would resist a sign-and-trade deal until the very end – until they were sure Durant was leaving them – but Griffin, an Oklahoma native, could be a fascinating part of that scenario.
For now, Durant is all in with these Thunder, hell-bent on breaking through in the Western Conference. No one ever doubts that with him. Yet Kevin Durant is human, and the slow, sure march to July 1 is real, it’s on his mind and the Golden State Warriors could be a problem for everyone.
All-Star Weekend is coming in Toronto, and Durant will get the chance to test out Steph Curry and Draymond Green as teammates. The recruiting has started, a delicate dance when the Thunder could turn out to be standing in the Warriors’ way come the playoffs. Nevertheless, this is NBA free agency, and make no mistake: For the defending NBA champions, the plan of pursuit for Kevin Durant has long been in motion.
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