SALT LAKE CITY – When Boston was included among the six teams that Kevin Durant was going to talk to during free agency this month, the Celtics were viewed as a team he was feeling out as more of a possibility for the summer of 2017 when Durant is expected to hit the free agent market for the second year in a row.
However, a league source with intimate knowledge of Boston’s thinking in regards to Durant as well as another league source, both told CSNNE.com that Boston’s pitch to Durant this weekend was good enough to where he’s "seriously considering" the Celtics right now as opposed to down the road.
The team's presentation, as well as the inclusion of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady - one of Durant's favorite players - made a very "favorable impression" on Durant to the point where, according to one source, it's no longer that big a stretch for him to seriously think about Boston as his next basketball home.
That said, both sources indicated that the Oklahoma City Thunder is still the front-runner for Durant who has spent his entire nine-season career with the franchise (first in Seattle and now in Oklahoma City). And ESPN is reporting that Durant’s decision will come down to staying in Oklahoma City or joining forces with the Golden State Warriors.
If he signs a "1+1" deal and becomes a free agent the following summer, he could conceivably sign a five-year extension with the Thunder that would tally something close to $234 million - that's nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in a six-year span - which is significantly more than he will make if he signs with another team this summer or long-term with another team in the summer of 2017.
The Boston Celtics are in wait-and-see mode just like the other five teams that had sit-down interviews this weekend with Durant who remains the most prized free agent available.
Durant has told teams that he will inform them of his decision as early as Monday, although he has already reportedly told the Los Angeles Clippers that they are out of the running.
And the Clippers reacted to the news by quickly signing Austin Rivers (Clippers head coach/general manager Doc Rivers’ son) to a three-year, $35 million contract with a player option for the third season.
By holding out for a shot at Durant, it cost the Clippers a shot at re-signing ex-Celtic Jeff Green who signed a one-year, $15 million contract with the Orlando Magic.
The Celtics don’t such issues to worry about.
They have already secured the second-best free agent on the market, Al Horford.
He leaves Atlanta after nine seasons to sign a four-year, $113 million deal with the Celtics that provides Boston with what will be the franchise’s most significant free agent acquisition ever.
While it’s too soon to know just what adding Horford to the roster will do to enhance Boston’s appeal in the eyes of Durant, the fact that Durant tried to woo Horford to Oklahoma City is a clear indication that Durant wants to play with the four-time All-Star.
Durant has a chance to do just that in Boston, but cutting ties with the Thunder may prove to be too difficult for Durant to do right after the Thunder came within one victory of advancing to the NBA Finals before blowing a 3-1 series lead to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals.
To come that close serves as one of the reasons many believe Durant will return to Oklahoma City for at least one more season of playing with fellow all-star Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2017 so it’s imperative that the Thunder do all they can to build a title contender for this upcoming season, well aware that the Thunder could lose both of their prized superstars in one summer.
Options, options, options.
Durant has a lot of them, and most of them are pretty good.
So what’s the best one?
Only Durant knows the answer, an answer he plans to reveal very soon as fans, media – and yes, six teams with one being the Boston Celtics – wait with great anticipation.
A. Sherrod Blakely can be followed on Twitter: @SherrodbCSN