As of next week, the discussion about Kevin Durant entering free agency isn't some far off hypothetical. Starting July 1, the Oklahoma City star can begin meeting with any of the NBA's 29 other teams. That includes the D.C. area native's hometown team.
Initial indications suggest a meeting with the Washington Wizards isn't on Durant's docket.
Multiple reports surfaced Friday night about upcoming plans for the 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player. According to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, Durant’s representatives "are working to solidify invitations with the Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Thunder, league sources said."
Why those teams? Seeing as all would pay Durant the maximum salary allowed under NBA rules -- though only Oklahoma City can offer a fifth year -- money isn't the issue. It's all about jewelry. Specifically, a ring.
"Durant’s public and private criteria for the free-agent selection process have pertained to a singular focus: the chance to win titles immediately," Wojnarowski reported.
Last season 10 teams won at least 48 games. Six of those teams are on Durant's list. Expectations have Durant staying with the Thunder on a two-year deal with a player option so he can retest free agency again in 2017 when the league's salary cap increases significantly for the second straight year.
The Thunder were one game from reaching the 2016 NBA Finals, but blew a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference Finals and did so to the other team Durant is reportedly strongly considering.
"More than any other rival suitor, the Warriors have Durant's attention," league sources told Wojnarowski.
Golden State won the NBA title in 2015 and then set an NBA record with 73 regular season wins before also blowing a 3-1 series lead, eventually losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals earlier this month. Adding Durant to the established core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green would make the Warriors an overwhelming favorite for the 2017 NBA title.
As for the other teams, all immediately enter championship talk with Durant on board, though the Spurs are there already. Like many NBA players, Durant owns a home in Los Angeles. Boston and Miami have the allure of a possibly easier path playing in the inferior Eastern Conference.
The Wizards, who finished 41-41 last season, are also in the East and have All-Star guard John Wall. They just might have something working against them, an issue real estate agents usually tout: Location, location, location.
Northeast Ohio native LeBron James wanted to play in Cleveland. The rampant speculation about KD2DC, which truly took off during the summer of 2014 and then spiked during each of his subsequent games in Washington, took place largely because Durant grew up in the area and remains an important figure.
While fans were beyond hopeful, reports surfaced that "Durant isn't all that keen on returning to play in the city in which he grew up." Durant never said never when it came to playing in Washington, though he has lamented about the extra hassles that come with playing so close to those who knew him when.
For now, the Wizards are on the outside of the scenario. Per Wojnarowski, "several teams that have interest in Durant – the Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards – could still find audiences with him, but appear to be outsiders in the process now.
Another report states the Wizards already recognized the situation. ESPN's Marc Stein reported Friday, "Sources say Durant's hometown Washington Wizards are likewise pessimistic about their chances of emerging as a real factor in the Durant sweepstakes, despite the recent hiring of former Thunder coach Scott Brooks."
Durant not playing for the Wizards is one thing. Even at peak speculation, which ended last winter when Durant described the fawning from Wizards fans at Oklahoma City games at Verizon Center as "disrespectful," the odds were never great. Yet after two years of discussion and dreaming, not even getting a meeting would be stunning.
The decision is expected before Durant leaves for an international promotion tour on July 9. That leaves plenty of time for speculation on his plans, whether they include his hometown team or not.
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