The summer of 2014 has been all about homecomings, first with LeBron, and then Brian Scalabrine’s hilarious letter to Bostonians announcing his return back to the green-and-white family. There’s still two years before Oklahoma’s Kevin Durant can become a free agent, but already speculation has the all-world player heading back home to the D.C. area.
It is far too early to hypothesize on Durant’s potential landing place, but hey, it’s August and the World Cup is still weeks away, so let’s take a look at what might lure KD back home.
Already there are a number of teams in the NBA preparing to make a run at Durant once he hits the open market – namely, the New York Knicks, the Brooklyn Nets, whose ties with Durant’s agent Jay Z could make them an attractive option, and even the Miami Heat, could all be players in the sweepstakes. The most intriguing of all the teams in the chase could be the Washington Wizards, though.
The Wiz will have cap space and coupled with the allure of teaming Durant up with John Wall and Bradley Beal, it just might be enough to snare him away from Oklahoma City.
Michael Wilbon, while appearing on ESPN’s PTI show, touched on the Wizards intentions.
“Look, they’re laying the foundation, the Wizards are,” said Wilbon. “They’ve done all the right things. They could have jumped in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes this summer; they didn’t. And Carmelo’s not from New York. He’s from Baltimore, which is a whole lot closer to Washington than New York. But they didn’t, because they’re trying to gather all their resources and clear out a big pile of money…when it comes time to offer Kevin Durant the money.
“If the Wizards come to get him, he’s ready. But this is a dilemma. He loves Oklahoma City, but he also loves his hometown.”
Durant’s feelings towards the Thunder organization are clear; that much was obvious during his emotional acceptance speech for the 2013-14 MVP award. But, for instance, if Oklahoma City fail to win a championship in the next two seasons, Durant might feel differently about the direction the team is headed in. Gone are the days where a player would be loyal to a franchise to a fault, a’la Kevin Garnett with Minnesota. Now players understand they have a finite time to scale the mountain top. That’s why LeBron initially left Cleveland, and is a big part of why he returned. He wants to be the guy that brought a ‘chip to his hometown.
Durant could see how it plays out for James over the next two seasons, and think to himself ‘I have a chance to do something historic.’ The Eastern Conference – and the NBA in general – is wide open.
Durant, whose ties to the D.C. area are well documented – wisely- refuses to speculate on what he might do in the near future.
“It’s been talked about. Everybody’s asked me about it every time I go on Instagram or Twitter,” Durant told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “All my friends ask me about it. So I’m not going to sit here and act like I’m naïve to the fact that people think about that stuff. But I just tell everybody that I’m here in Oklahoma City, [and] I love it here. Who knows what will happen? I never close the door on anything. But I like where I’m at right now, so I can’t answer that question.”
Another factor in Durant’s decision could be his choice of apparel. His 7-year, $60 million endorsement deal with Nike is set to expire this week, reports have linked him to a $30 million per year deal with burgeoning company Under Armour, fortuitously based in Durant’s hometown in Maryland.
“I’m just going to let my team be the ones who handle that behind the scenes, I guess,” Durant told ESPN last week. “When you look at stuff like that, it’s great problems to have because people want you for what you know and do on the basketball court, the work you put in, so I’m going to continue to put my work in, let them focus on that on the other end, and we’ll come together at some point.”
Under Armour have been looking to make a splash in the basketball world and signed Warriors’ sharp-shooter Stephen Curry last season. A player of Durant’s stature would be their major drawcard, however.
Durant’s management, ROC Nation Sports, has been securing some large contracts for it’s stable of players in recent months – just recently they landed Durant a deal with Sparkling Ice, a zero-calorie drink.
According to a Portland business journal, Durant was supposed to take a three-day visit to Nike’s headquarters in Beavertown, but canceled that recently. It’s not known if part of the visit was to discuss his endorsement deal.
For all the speculation by media members on Durant’s future, it all becomes irrelevant if the Thunder win a championship in the next two seasons. Then it becomes hard to see Durant leave town. Those in the know feel like LeBron James would have stayed in Miami had the Heat managed to win a third title in a row. You just don’t leave a championship squad.
In the meantime, speculation is all we have until the NBA’s most wanted man decides where he will plant his flag.
Image via: Nike Inc.