2:14pm: Smith, in his response to Durant, identifies the Thunder and the Lakers as well as the Heat, Wizards, and Knicks as the teams he’s heard Durant is considering (Twitlonger link).
FRIDAY, 12:25pm: Durant made it clear that he finds no truth to the rumor, as he explained to The Oklahoman’s Anthony Slater. “I don’t talk to Stephen A. Smith at all,” Durant said to Slater. “No one in my family [or] my friends do. So he’s lying.”
THURSDAY, 8:20am: Kevin Durant would prefer the Lakers over other teams in free agency next summer if he is to leave the Thunder, as ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith hears (YouTube link; transcription via Glenn Erby of BlackSportsOnline), and as Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports 1 corroborates. Smith also hears that the possibility of Durant teaming up with Kobe Bryant to join Carmelo Anthony is in play, though he suggests that the notion is a long shot. It’s not entirely clear whether that scenario would play out on the Knicks or the Lakers.
Most of the executives who spoke with Ken Berger of CBSSports.com this summer told him they expect Durant will re-sign with the Thunder, with the Lakers, Mavericks and Wizards among the few alternatives with a legitimate chance at the former MVP and the Knicks on the fringe of the picture. Durant said this week that he’s “hit it off” with new Thunder coach Billy Donovan, adding to the idea that the incumbent Thunder are the favorites to put pen to paper with Durant this coming July. Rumors are sure to fly between now and then, but Durant put out a word of caution in August, saying that he’d only be discussing his future with a tight circle of advisers and that if reporters drew from other sources, the information wouldn’t be reliable.
Phil Jackson recently raised the idea of Bryant playing with a team other than the Lakers after this coming season, as Smith points out, but Bryant put the kibosh on that, telling Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports recently that, “I bleed purple-and-gold” and, “I am a Laker for better or worse.” Bryant, 37, is also considering retirement at season’s end. Anthony, the Knicks star, is the only one among himself, Bryant and Durant who isn’t a free agent after this season, as his contract doesn’t allow him to elect free agency until 2018. ‘Melo could waive his no-trade clause if he wants to join the Lakers, though both Jackson and the Lakers would have to agree to a deal for that to happen, a prospect further complicated by the 15% trade kicker on Anthony’s contract that the Knicks would have to pay in the event of a swap.
Durant’s projected maximum salary for 2016/17 is $24.9MM, a figure the Thunder can exceed the cap to pay because they have his Bird rights. The Lakers have less than $20MM in commitments for next season against a projected $89MM cap, and the Knicks have about $55MM, meaning both teams are poised to have enough room to make Durant a max offer.
Where do you think Durant ends up? Leave a comment to tell us.