Bulls

Durant likes the prospect of 'being wanted' with free agency looming

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Durant likes the prospect of 'being wanted' with free agency looming

TORONTO — With Kobe Bryant’s impending retirement and Stephen Curry’s ongoing domination, the future free agency of Kevin Durant has largely gone under the NBA’s radar this season.

Compared to free-agency circuses of years past, Durant is an MVP not far removed from and perhaps better than his award-winning year but on a team many aren’t sure is capable of winning an NBA championship with Golden State and San Antonio distancing themselves from the rest of the pack — including Durant’s formidable Thunder squad.

So after being quite combative earlier this year about the prospect of being a free agent, with the rumor mill churning out possibility after possibility through training camp and the early weeks of the season, things have quieted a bit — which perhaps has made Durant a bit more reflective in the time since.

He intimated he’ll seek out other players who’ve gone through the process and find out how they dealt with the ancillary issues that come about.

“I’ll just ask a few guys how they dealt with the outside stuff, the media and how they dealt with it mentally,” Durant said at All-Star media availability Friday afternoon.

“You hear a lot, but I don’t wanna seek anybody out. I wanna enjoy this weekend. Everybody’s gonna ask me, so of course I’m gonna have to think about it. I understand it. I know guys have been through it before.”

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But even though he’s consistently said he’s only focused on his health after last season’s myriad foot injuries and a playoff run with the Thunder, Durant admitted the prospect of being recruited, wined and dined appeals to him.

“I mean, I’ll tell you one thing: It’s great to feel wanted, I guess,” he said. “I put myself in a position where I play basketball at a high level. I’ve heard so much things and rumors where this team wants me and that team wants me.”

Many should, as Durant makes his case on a nightly basis for the title of “Best Player Alive” every time he steps on the floor. Averaging 27.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists on 51-percent shooting and 39 from 3 with a 90-percent clip at the foul line can’t be ignored, no matter how well anybody is playing.

It’s a chief reason why Durant has been linked to joining Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green in the Bay Area — which would give anybody with championship hopes nightmares of the worst kind.

“That’s what you want as a player: to have everybody respect you and really admire how you play basketball,” Durant said. “At the same time my focus is being the best basketball player I can be. Being the leader takes a lot of focus.”

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Durant seemed relaxed and under control with the media as opposed to being combative and didn’t even bat an eye when it was suggested the Thunder could trade him before the deadline if the franchise felt Durant would leave them in unrestricted free agency.

“I never thought about that ... man I don’t know. I don’t want to be moved,” Durant said. “I want to finish this thing out. We have a really good thing going on here. I can’t speak for (anyone) but me and (general manager) Sam Presti, assistant GM, we haven’t talked about that type of stuff.

“It’s always been about how can we be better for my teammates and working on my leadership skills. I really don’t know. I doubt it. We’ll see. But now that you’ve said something about it, I probably can’t sleep.”

He chucked when he said he couldn’t sleep, which only simulates the thought of many general managers, coaches and players when he walks into their building.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

The Bulls square off against the Sixers tonight on NBC Sports Chicago, with coverage beginning at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live. Here are three things to watch as the Bulls begin the stretch run of their regular season.

1. The new rotation: Most of the Bulls’ rotation looks the same, but the addition of David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne will have a different feel. The Bulls clearly want to get a look at these guys before the end of the regular season, meaning they’re not just going to get sporadic minutes. They’ll have to play through their mistakes, play out-matched at times and be put in uncomfortable situations. But the Bulls need to see what they have, especially in Payne, who has missed the entire season to this point with a broken foot.

2. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons: They’re quite the 1-2 punch and have the Sixers looking at their first playoff appearance since Derrick Rose hadn’t yet torn an ACL. Yeah, that’s a long time. Embiid just finished his first All-Star appearance (starting in his second year) and Simmons is the front runner for Rookie of the Year. The Bulls will have their hands full with these two. Luckily…

3. Kris Dunn is back: The Bulls wanted to get Dunn some run before heading to All-Star Weekend to play in the Rising Stars Challenge, and he looked healthy in that thumping against the Raptors last week. The good news is John Paxson says Dunn won’t be on a minutes limit, which means he’s healthy. That, of course, is more important than how he’s playing. It’ll be fun to see him, LaVine and Markkanen play together down the stretch. Their numbers together aren’t great, but the Bulls are 2-2 with all three in the lineup, and tanking or not…it’s more fun to watch when those three are rolling. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Of Bulls and Blackhawks, which team will finish with higher draft pick?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Of Bulls and Blackhawks, which team will finish with higher draft pick?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times), Hub Arkush (ProFootball Weekly) and Jason Goch (SB Nation) join Kap on the panel.

The guys debate which team will finish with a higher draft pick when the season ends: Bulls or Blackhawks?

Plus, hear their reaction to the MLB’s new pace-of-play rule change.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: