The NBA free-agent courting process is a lot like colleges rolling out the red carpet for recruits. It’s rather embarrassing the way the Houston Rockets publicly fawned over Carmelo Anthony, the Chicago Bulls wasted their time in multiple meetings with Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh and how the L.A. Lakers humiliated themselves trying to keep Dwight Howard.
All of these situations have something in common. They failed. The bells and whistles might work with teenagers who’ve never been on a plane, but not grown men who have been everywhere and seen everything in the NBA. They require what the open market says their skillset is worth and usually not a penny less, a place that they can see themselves calling home and a chance to compete for championships.
Nothing is wrong with those demands. Thankfully, Kevin Durant’s ego won’t require this sort of placation when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer despite earlier a reports of him wanting to be courted like James who ended up with the Miami Heat with Wade and Bosh after that circus.
“I never said that. That’s not who I am,” Durant said during exit interviews Wednesday, less than 48 hours after his Oklahoma City Thunder were eliminated in seven games from the West finals. “Whatever this thing entails, I’m willing to take it head on. But I’m not that type of person. The two most important things for me is being around great people and having fun playing basketball. All of that other stuff that comes with it, being who I am and being in this position is not really for me and not what I’m concerned with.”
For the Wizards, this is a good thing because they should be able to quickly pivot to Plan B. They should learn early on in the process if they're out of the sweepstakes for Durant, who wouldn't provide specifics Wednesday because he said he hadn't given it much thought with his team one game from another NBA Finals appearance. That's more than understandable.
Would he consult teammate Russell Westbrook? It didn't sound like it. Would he consider a shorter deal (two years with a player option) to stay in Oklahoma City and wait until next summer to make a decision when Westbrook and Serge Ibaka also are free agents? Not necessarily.
There's a lot to appeciate about the 27-year-old, nine-year NBA vet. Despite being a 2013-14 MVP and a multi-time scoring champion, Durant has had his fill of attention. He doesn't need to manufcature more of it.
Most players know where their heart or ambitions rest. They know if they're committed to a place, such as Anthony to New York City, long before the appearance of suitors who'll ultimately be left with the bill with nothing to show for their efforts. High school basketball players have taken recruiting visits to places they have no intention of going, such as the University of Miami, because it's a paid vacation.
If Durant chooses to leave Oklahoma City, rest assured he'll pen an open letter, take out a full-page newspaper ad and maybe thank the residents with a billboard of some sort. He might even continue to hold camps and give to charitable causes to support a small market that always has supported him.
He doesn't expect to drag it out. Durant is expected to be the top free agent on the market and every team with cap room for a max player wants to make their pitch to him.
He wants to get it over with and move on, and least everyone's dignity should still be intact.