Kevin Durant talks to the media during his exit interview Wednesday in Oklahoma City. (Photo by Michael Kinney)
By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY — The clock has started ticking. The second Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals concluded, the free agency frenzy surrounding Kevin Durant began.
After nine years in the NBA and eight years in Oklahoma City, the face of the Thunder franchise now has the option to stay in place or move on down the road.
It’s a decision the former league MVP is not taking lightly, but says he hasn’t had time to focus on it just exactly he wants to see.
“Just when I sit down and think about it — to be honest, I haven’t put that list (of factors) together, I guess,” Durant said. “Just being around great people, being in a great basketball environment, that’s the two most important things for me. That’s all I really care about. Who I’m going to be doing life with every single day, who I’m going to be playing basketball with every day.”
Durant has several options to choose from:
1. Sign long term max deal with the Thunder now that could pay him as much 5- years/$150 million.
2. Sign long term deal now with another franchise that would be for as as much $40 million less than the Thunder.
3. Sign a one or two year deal with the Thunder and become a free agent again in 2017. But with the salary cap expected to rise, he could then sign a long term deal paying him $250 million over 5 years with Oklahoma City.
4. Sign the same one or two year deal with another team before signing long term. It would cost him $40-$50 million over the life of the contract.
Most outside observers believe Durant will choose Option No. 3. But Durant hasn’t give any hints on which way he is leaning.
“It’s too soon, bro. I really haven’t thought about that,” Durant said. “I’m sure I’ll talk to who I need to talk to to figure out the numbers and all that stuff that goes on. But right now, like I say, I’m still reflecting. I’m still in Game 7 mode right now. I’m still trying to get out of that and just reflect on the year and hanging out with my teammates these next few days while we’re all here in OKC. I think that’s what I’m really focused on right now. But like I say, after I’ve had a few weeks to really wind down a bit, then I’ll start having those discussions.”
One thing is for sure, Durant doesn’t plan to make a big ordeal of his free agency. He doesn’t want it to become a circus like other big name free agents in the past.
“That’s not who I am. Whatever this thing entails, I’m ready to take it head on, but I’m not that type of person,” Durant said. “I mean, that’s not really — like I said, the two most important things for me is being around great people and having fun playing basketball. All that other stuff that comes with, being who I am and being in this position, it’s not really what I’m concerned with.”
Even Durant’ teammates and coach claim to not know what his plan is.
“We just support him. I mean, we support him,” Steven Adams said. “We understand this it’s his decision. I ain’t trying to pressure him. By the way, I’m real low on the totem pole. I’m lucky enough to get his number.”
Coach Billy Donovan was asked what it will be like having go through a recruiting period again as he attempts to persuade Durant into staying put. Donovan, who just finished his first year in the NBA, doesn’t see it that same way.
“Yeah, I don’t think I’ll be recruiting him. I don’t look at it as recruiting,” Donovan said. “For me, it’s been over 100 games with Kevin. Obviously, for him, this decision will be his decision. I’m there in any way he needs. But I think when you’ve been with somebody for basically an entire year — and it was a year ago at this point in time when he was coming off his foot injury that we had a chance to spend a lot of time. So Kevin will go through this process, and I’m going to respect his wishes of taking his time and evaluating it and making the right decision for himself.”
Durant did say at some point he will sit down with teammate Russell Westbrook and talk about their futures. Westbrook will become a free agent in 2017.
“It’s kind of hard to talk to one of my teammates,” Durant said. “You know, obviously, we’ve been through a lot. We know each other very, very well, but it’s one of these things where I just — I got to just hear from me and hear what I want and talk to myself about what I need and how I can make this thing work for myself and just try to be a little selfish a bit. Obviously, I want to ask for advice, but I also want to make a decision that’s best for me. I’m sure at some point me and Russell will sit down and talk, but he’s putting no pressure on me. He’s been just great in this whole thing and just being my friend. I think that’s one thing I needed throughout the whole year, throughout this whole process is just people to be my friend and worry about me as a person.”
Free agent signings can start July 7, at 12:01 a.m.
Regardless of what Durant chooses, his feelings for Oklahoma are evident. It’s the place he grew from a boy into a man.
“It’s home. That’s how it’s been for eight years,” Durant said. “The time has flown by. You don’t really know — the time flies when you’re having fun. That’s what I heard, and I think, as time has gone past so quickly, I’ve learned so much about myself, about being here as a basketball player and as a man. I’ve been through a lot of different experiences just in this city, and it’s something I’m always going to remember.”
Michael Kinney is a freelance writer and can be reached at Eyeamtruth@gmail.com