He might team up with LeBron James in Hollywood. The New York Knicks are already recruiting the two-time reigning NBA Finals MVP. Could he return to Oklahoma City with a cupcake in hand and make up with Russell Westbrook? Maybe the dude wants to return to his D.C roots, or hoop with The Process in Philly.
These are among the many rumors we’ve seen Kevin Durant subjected to since the start of the 2018-19 season.
Durant has yet to commit to re-signing with the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors. Unlike the past two seasons, it seems that he might in fact test free agency. That’s all fine. But it’s time to end this rumor mill before it takes us down an endless one-way path to narrative street.
Kevin Durant is not leaving Northern California. To suggest otherwise is merely an attempt to get page clicks.
How do we know? Ask Durant himself.
“I am thinking about the money I’m going to get,” Durant said last week, via Marcus Thompson of The Athletic. “I never got the (massive) deal. I’ve just seen a bunch of dudes around the league making so much money — and I’m happy for them.”
These comments sparked hundreds of articles suggesting Durant is all but gone.
Sorry, but that’s just missing the point altogether.
Outside of the refreshing honesty, Durant is pretty much admitting he’ll re-sign with the Warriors. How so? Well, we’re glad you asked. Golden State can offer him much more than any other team once July of 2019 comes calling — about $60 million more over five seasons to be exact.
If Durant is worried about money more than anything else, the Warriors are obviously going to be his first (and only) choice.
As it relates to the NBA’s top team, they’re not going to go to Durant and ask for a discount after handing Stephen Curry what was then the richest contract in NBA history the very same offseason that saw Durant take a paycut to keep the likes of Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala, among others.
“He loves being part of our organization and being a part of the Bay Area,” Warriors owner Joe Lacob said about Durant in mid October, via The Mercury News. “He’s earned the right to be a free agent or do whatever he wants in terms of contract Statius. I would let it play out and see what happens. I’m not too worried about it.”
Indeed, Durant has talked at length about the Warriors’ organization and the Bay Area as a whole.
“It’s just where I want to play ball at, where I’m most comfortable, where I feel most at home, and I feel at home here,” Durant said recently. “I feel like I belong here. I feel like I mix with this team, I mesh with this team well.”
It’s not just simply about the two NBA titles he’s won in two seasons with the Warriors and a likely third this coming June. It’s not about the new waterfront arena opening in San Francisco next season. Sure those two factors will play a major role in Durant’s decision-making process. But it’s about a lot more than that.
Much like LeBron James and other stars, there’s a business aspect to it off the court. Durant loves the Silicon Valley and has already made his imprint in the region. Back in May, ESPN focused on how KD was already building an empire in the Mecca of the tech world. It’s also taken a pretty large investment from Durant’s standpoint.
“His investment arm, the Durant Company, claims early-stage investments from $250,000 to $1 million in roughly 30 companies through a network of venture capitalists, including online digital-currency platform Coinbase, spare-change app Acorns, cloud-computing startup Rubrik, drink company WTRMLN WTR, fast-casual pizza chain Pieology, bike-sharing company LimeBike and delivery company Postmates,” the longform piece noted.
Do we expected Durant to simply throw this away because of the allure of New York City? He’s a smart man. He knows where the money is. And despite the Big Apple being the nation’s largest media market, the Bay Area is where his earning potential remains untapped.
Much Like Durant’s decision to bolt OKC for the Bay Area had a business slant to it, his decision this coming summer will also be weighed heavily by economic factors. Yes, that includes Silicon Valley, endorsement opportunities, media markets and the new Chase Arena in San Francisco.
Durant feels as if he’s grown as an adult in the Bay Area. From a business standpoint, that’s hard to argue with. From an on-court aspect, Durant is playing the best basketball of his career for one of the greatest teams in the history of the Association. He has a great relationship with fellow star players, two-time MVP Stephen Curry included. They also mesh together better than any pair of teammates we’ve seen since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Just ask Warriors head coach Steve Kerr.
“The continuity of being together now for a while, winning back-to-back titles together, I think there’s probably a better comfort zone, comfort area between the two of them than there’s ever been,” said Kerr following Sunday’s win over Brooklyn.
There’s also this thing called legacy. Joining LeBron in Los Angeles would pretty much represent bad optics for both players. Durant has talked ad nauseam about his place in NBA’s history.
Said history would judge him in a worst manner if he were to join James than it did back during the summer of 2016 when the future Hall of Famer bolted OKC for what was then a Warriors team coming off a 73-win campaign.
New York? Speaking of the Mecca, During has openly talked about Madison Square Garden and Rucker Park.
“The Garden is like a playground with walls,” Durant said prior to the team’s game against the Knicks this past weekend. “You walk outside and you’re right on the street. It feels like you’re playing at Rucker Park indoors.”
It would be foolish to believe the Big Apple isn’t on the mind of every pending free agent and those who have come before. It is. After all, Durant is already a legend within the community.
That, however, won’t even come close to being the end-all-be-all. The Knicks organization has continually proven to fall flat on its face. No matter who is running the front office, this team has not been relevant on the broader NBA stage for the better part of the past two decades. So while the allure of New York City will be there, KD himself will be worried more about immediate contention and the short-term future of the franchise than Madison Square Garden or his legendary following in Harlem.
It’s in this that the Warriors culture and success has been light years ahead of what we’ve seen down near Manhattan.
Again, we refer you to Durant’s own words. “It’s just where I want to play ball at” and “I’m thinking about the money.”
From both an on-court perspective and Durant’s business opportunities off the court, Northern California remains his best option. He’s said as much. And it’s now time we put this to rest, at least, until the summer.