CLEVELAND — Welcome to the Land of LeBron, where talk around here centers on whether King James will flee to The Big Apple in 2010 more than whether he can lead a suddenly dangerous Cavs team to an NBA title in 2008-09.
The Cavs enter tonight’s game against the Thunder coming off a 119-101 road thumping of the Knicks inside Madison Square Garden, giving New York fans and media a glimpse of the player who could become the most sought after free agent in NBA history and one the Knicks are desperately trying to get their hands on.
The Knicks traded Zach Randolph and Mardy Collins to the Clippers last week and Jamal Crawford to the Warriors on the same day in an attempt to clear salary cap space for the long awaited summer of 2010.
Oklahoma City is currently projected to have the most salary cap space available of any team that summer, with just under $8 million committed in salaries. But while it’s highly unlikely the Thunder will be so much as a blimp on LeBron’s radar, OKC has its own star, Kevin Durant, to focus on signing to a contract extension before Oct. 31 of 2010.
Unlike James, who has kept Cavs fans on pins and needles by continuing to say he’ll weigh all his options, Durant is firm on his commitment to Oklahoma City.
“I want to be here as long as possible,” Durant said. ”That’s what I tell everybody. I want to be part of the organization for my whole career if it can happen. So I’m not thinking about it at all.”
Durant doesn’t foresee teams clearing the books to make a hard run at him like franchises have done to try to land James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh. If their teams don’t sign them to extensions (which is highly unlikely), Durant could be joined by fellow 2007 draft class members Greg Oden, Al Horford, Jeff Green, Thaddeus Young and Al Thornton as potential free agents following the 2010-11 season.
“(It won’t be) like LeBron,” Durant said. ”I doubt that. But we’ll cross that bridge once we get to it.”
Durant, who is friends with James, called the frenzy over his potential free agency “something new for the game” and “good to see.”
“First of all, I know he’s flattered,” Durant said. ”Growing up, being sought after as a player is something you always dream about. But I think he knew it would happen eventually. It’s going to be fun to see what happens.”