The buzz around Kevin Durant’s trip to free agency continues to pick up.
Over the weekend a report made the rounds that if the Oklahoma City Thunder don’t make the NBA Finals Durant wouldn’t be back with the team. Considering the Thunder sit just third in the Western Conference behind the dominant Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs, it was quite the juicy pot-stirring material inciting some panic among Thunder faithful.
Durant seems like he won’t have any of it, though. He denied the report while talking with ESPN.com’s Royce Young:
To me, it doesn’t [make sense]. You put too much pressure on everybody if you say something like that. Especially my teammates and the organization. They don’t deserve that. So I never said that, I never thought that.
Like I said, I can’t control rumors from people who sit behind their desk every day and think of stuff to say. I’m worrying about coming out here every day and staying healthy and trying to battle against the best players in the world while rumors are getting written up about whatever, and I have no control over it. That’s their job, and my job is to play ball. So I never said that.
It’s a game of he said, she said at this point. The initial rumor has some legs in large part because it makes sense. Durant is already going on 28 years old and his team has yet to hoist a trophy. Forget the allure of a bigger market where he could make more money—Durant might want his own team, one he can direct free of Russell Westbrook while helping craft the roster and winning titles. The LeBron James treatment.
“Might” is the key word, though. By all accounts, what most expected to be a frenzy surrounding Durant’s trip to the market has been rather quiet. Whether it’s the Warriors’ dominance, Dwight Howard or something else, Durant simply hasn’t received the coverage most would expect. Not that he would have it any other way, per Young:
There have been a lot of rumors out there. I wouldn’t say it’s been totally quiet, but it’s been cool, it’s been different. I was expecting a lot, every city I go to, everybody to ask me questions, but it’s been pretty quiet. Once July hits that’s when everybody will care. They’re just worried about the season. There’s a lot of stuff going on. A lot of great players and teams playing well this year, so I’m not the focus.
This seems the beginning of a major upswing in chatter, though. It’s almost as if the rumor mill has just awoken from a slumber and realized Durant is headed to the market. Nobody needs a report to know the Thunder put themselves in a better position with their star player the deeper they go into the playoffs.
Like keeping Durant in the face of bigger markets, it’s much easier said than done. The Western Conference is brutal this year and anything can happen in a series. Durant’s decision will more likely hinge on how the future looks for the Thunder and other teams who covet him, not how his team does in one postseason.
Things won’t remain quiet for Durant from here no matter how much he might prefer it. And whether anyone believes it or not, there’s a new kind of pressure on the Thunder to perform this postseason.