NBA fans know Kevin Durant as a superstar player for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He once led them to the Finals, but never quite over the top. Along with Russell Westbrook, they've formed quite the dynamic duo in Okie land. The Thunder made a horrible mistake letting point guard James Hardin get away to free agency in Houston, which likely doomed whatever chances they had at a title, but that's a story for another day. Nevertheless, the landscape has changed.
While the Thunder remain a very good team in the West, nobody would seriously doubt Golden State has become the class of the field. The San Antonio Spurs continue their standard of excellence, and the LA Clippers seem destined to forever be yappy wannabes.
Recently, Kevin Durant and the Thunder played a game against the Knicks in NYC. Durant said he LOVED the place.
True, Phil Jackson has done an admirable job with the mess he inherited. The Knicks have gone from jokes to almost a .500 team.
Thing is, Durant will be an unrestricted free agent after this year. He can go anywhere, and he'll surely get a max salary wherever he lands. Would he stay in Okla? Maybe. Has the siren song of the bright lights in the Big Apple become too alluring? Maybe. But if he goes to Madison Square Garden, he's not going to win a championship there either. In fact, he'd never even see another Finals -- not as long as Lebron and Co. in Cleveland continue rolling along. That could be several more years.
Sure, he and his agent might be able to squeeze a few more million out of some teams than others, but if he ever wants to win a championship, there's a logical choice. And does it really matter whether he makes $20 million or $25 million a year? No sane person can spend that much money anyway.
If I'm the San Antonio Spurs, I quietly begin putting out feelers as to whether Durant would be willing to come play for coach Popovic in Alamoland. True, it would have to be on the sly -- friend of a friend of a friend type of thing -- else the Spurs would get slammed for "tampering" while KD is still under contract. But surely there are ways of unofficially communicating such a message.
Consider the Spurs' current situation. They know they're a good team -- arguably the second best in the entire league. But they also know Golden State is a step above them. Further consider that despite all his brilliance over the many years he's played, center Tim Duncan will be retiring soon. This year might well be his last go-round.
The Spurs have some other players getting long in the tooth, like Tony Parker and Manu Genobili, but they likely still have a couple good years left in them. They also have what might quietly be the best young all-around player in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard. And Lamarcus Aldredge. And nobody finds and develops overseas talent like Coach Pop and the Spurs. The Spurs routinely play almost their entire roster in any given game. Such is the nature of the system Pop has developed, and it's worked well.
But as is, chances are the Spurs won't be able to get past the Warriors in the playoffs. Golden State is just too good.
Yet plug in a 27 year old Durant at the prime of his career to replace Duncan, especially under Coach Pop's tutelage, and the landscape could shift again.
No, KD wouldn't get all the press, glamour, and endorsements he might playing for the Knicks, much less the woeful la-la land Lakers, but he'd have a legitimate shot at winning a championship. Besides, the only year of college ball he played was in -- yep -- Texas. One could consider it a homecoming of sort.
It will be interesting to see where Durant lands after this season. Pretty sure it won't be in such places as Utah, Detroit, Sacramento, or Philly. Even a superstar has his limitations when it comes to making a big difference on another team. Some NBA outposts require nothing less than Divine intervention to change their misfortunes. Or at least people in charge that know what the hell they're doing and have a plan.