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.