OAKLAND -- The Warriors this season, as they have in recent years, will get plenty of attention and generate endless hours of conversation about countless subjects. No individual among them will be under a harsher light than Kevin Durant.
It’s not about his ability. Durant is very capable defender and playmaker as well as the purest and most complete scorer in the NBA.
It’s not about his gratuitous social-media forays, either. They happen. He shrugs.
It’s about his future. It’s about his plans beyond next June 30.
For the third consecutive offseason, Durant signed a deal he can dump after one season. Unlike Klay Thompson, who has been overt about his desire to remain with the Warriors for the foreseeable future, Durant has been purposely vague.
"It was one of those things where you're just confident in your skills, and you kind of just want to take it year by year," Durant said last month. "And I think to keep my options open, it was the best thing for me. I could have easily signed a long-term deal, but I just wanted to take it a season by season and see where it takes me.
"And I think this whole year is going to be a fun, exciting year for us all and I'm looking forward to just focusing on that. And we'll see what happens after the year."
And with that, rivers of rumors will come cascading down upon the Warriors in every city they visit. Durant has insisted that he will divulge nothing, thereby allowing those rivers to swell with speculation.
He’s going to the Knicks. It’s New York. It’s a team in need of a rescue, having missed the playoffs in 13 of the last 17 seasons and without a deep playoff run since 2000. It’s the jersey Durant is wearing in the dreams of his agent and business partner, Big Apple native Rich Kleiman, who doesn’t hide his masochistic desire to fix Knicks. If Durant wants to be the undisputed centerpiece of a team, what better place than New York, which has been sleeping with basketball misery for most of his life?
He’s going to the Lakers. It’s LA. Durant can enjoy the perks of Hollywood while living in the $12-million Malibu beach house he bought six months ago and teaming up with fellow superstar LeBron James.
KD is going back to the Thunder. That one is out there, too, perhaps because Durant still has philanthropic interests in the area and maybe feels, deep down, no town can love him better than Oklahoma City.
He’s going to the SuperSonics. It was 12 days ago that Durant and the Warriors visited Seattle, where he began his career, and the place bathed him in love.
OK. Seattle is not really being discussed, but only because it has no team, relocation would be at least three years away and expansion is not an option before 2024.
If any team is built to cope with being endlessly quizzed in every city it visits, on a topic it would rather avoid, it is the Warriors. With so many eyes on them for so many years, they are practiced in the art of deflection.
Durant has been through this before, in 2015-16, as a member of the Thunder. He was intentionally vague about his plans. After a meeting the Thunder in Oklahoma City, Durant invited five additional teams to The Hamptons. He chose the Warriors.
This time around, Durant could choose another team. The Warriors have accepted this; CEO Joe Lacob acknowledges that the future Hall of Famer will need to be re-recruited. That’s the mystery here. Nobody knows. Everybody is guessing.
Meanwhile, every Warriors veteran is staying on message, limiting conversation about the team to this season only.
“You don’t look too far into the future,” Thompson says. “We just want to enjoy the now because we’ve got something so great here. It definitely is a brotherhood, especially when you win championships with your teammates. That’s a bond you’ll have forever.
“Whatever happens, I can call these guys my brothers and my teammates for the rest of my life.”
Straight from the handbook, eh? It’ll serve Thompson and his teammates well throughout this season for a subject sure come up repeatedly. Unless Durant changes his mind, and that’s highly unlikely, the answer won’t come before next July.
That gives outsiders more than eight months to speculate, and gives the Warriors nearly as long to live with it.