12:37pm: An NBA GM cautioned that the Knicks have the same chance at Durant as the Thunder and other contenders, naming the Wizards, Lakers, Clippers and Nets, as the GM said to Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv.
8:38am: Kevin Durant can envision signing with the Knicks when he hits free agency in 2016, a person close to Kevin Durant tells Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, citing his affection for Carmelo Anthony. Durant is close to Knicks coach and former Thunder teammate Derek Fisher, and, Isola writes, he also admires Knicks GM Steve Mills and assistant GM Allan Houston.
“No question about it,” the person close to Durant told Isola “Kevin loves Carmelo [Anthony]. It could work in New York. But never rule out the Thunder.”
Durant isn’t enamored with Reggie Jackson and is becoming increasingly frustrated with Russell Westbrook, Isola hears. The Knicks tried to acquire Jackson when they and the Thunder participated in a three-team trade earlier this month, and they’re likely to make another run at trading for the guard, as Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported around the time of the swap. However, the Thunder almost traded Jackson to the Nuggets this week, according to Isola, who says on Twitter that Oklahoma City is “expected” to deal Jackson before the February 19th trade deadline.
Jackson’s set for restricted free agency this summer, while Westbrook’s contract with the Thunder runs one year longer than Durant’s, carrying through 2016/17. Westbrook and Durant have been teammates since the 2008/09 season, but Kevin Love reportedly said that he, Anthony and Durant have spoken, at least casually, about playing together. Love has repeatedly insisted that he’s committed to Cleveland for the long haul, but since the Cavs power forward plans to opt in for next season, that would align his free agency with Durant’s for the summer of 2016, when Anthony will have three years left on his deal with the Knicks. New York only has about $32.3MM in commitments for that summer, when most league executives assume the salary cap will surge to around $90MM.
Still, the Knicks will have plenty of competition for Durant, even if he’s indeed growing tired of some of his Thunder teammates. The Wizards, who play in Durant’s hometown, are more than a pipe dream, even if they are a long shot, as TNT’s David Aldridge wrote this week, pointing out a potential income tax savings for Durant if he plays in D.C. and establishes residency in another state. Durant and Kobe Bryant have spoken of mutual interest in playing with each other, though Bryant has said he’ll probably retire after next season, just when Durant is set to hit free agency. Durant has also publicly backed the Thunder, saying recently that he loves playing for Oklahoma City and that, “There’s just a certain level of pride that I have when I play with that Oklahoma City on my chest.”