In his most extensive public comments about his highly-anticipated free agency, Kevin Durant addressed rampant speculation that he will soon leave Oklahoma City for his native Washington.
Nothing he said couched concerns in Oklahoma City that he won’t someday bolt. Instead, Durant made it unequivocally clear that he will put himself first when choosing which team he will continue his career with when his contract expires at the end of the 2015-2016 season.
“I’m going to do what’s best for me,” Durant told reporters in Las Vegas, where he was practicing with the U.S. Men’s National Team in preparation for next month’s FIBA World Cup. “It’s hard to talk about that right now when I’ve got two years left in Oklahoma City. I’m just going to focus on that. I’m not going to make a decision based on what anybody else does.”
From the moment LeBron James announced he would return to Cleveland, a 30-minute drive from his hometown of Akron, Ohio, all eyes turned to Durant as the next superstar in line for a feel-good homecoming. Durant grew up in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Seat Pleasant, Md., and the Washington Wizards are openly positioning themselves to make a hard run at Durant in July 2016.
Durant acknowledged the speculation. But while insisting he’s focused on the present, he also refused to rule out anything in the future.
“Look, we going to put it out on tape. It’s been talked about,” Durant said when asked about signing with his hometown Wizards. “Everybody’s asked me about it every time I go on Instagram or Twitter. 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. 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.”
Durant has expressed his happiness with the Thunder and his fondness for Oklahoma City in numerous ways since the franchise relocated here in 2008. He’s repeatedly verbalized it, committed himself contractually with a five-year extension that didn’t contain an early opt-out clause, hosted an insanely popular camp in the area annually and donated his time and money when devastating tornadoes ripped through Moore last spring.
But more and more, Durant sounds intrigued by the idea of free agency.
“It’s great to feel wanted,” Durant told reporters. “Guys taking four or five trips to see teams. You got to see what’s out there if you’re a free agent. We’re playing in a league that’s so powerful. You can impact so many different people. You have to look at all your options.”
Durant admitted that he didn’t know any better when he signed for the full five-year extension in 2010 rather than insisting on what’s known as a player option, an out clause that could have made him a free agent after next season.
“To be honest, I just didn’t know. I was 21. I didn’t know,” Durant said. “Obviously, when you sign a deal you want to have the best options for yourself, the best flexibility for yourself. But I loved Oklahoma City so much I just wanted to dedicate and show them that I’m all about the team.”
Durant has as much for six seasons. But in doing so, he’s maintained a close connection to his hometown, from returning there the past two summers for the launch of his newest signature shoe, to playing pick-up ball on legendary playgrounds.
“I grew up watching the Bullets/Wizards,” Durant said. “I grew up taking the train to that arena all the time to watch Georgetown, the Bullets, the Washington Mystics. That whole city is a part of me. It’s in my blood. I love going back home, seeing my family and playing there. But I love Oklahoma City, too.”
As for James’ return, Durant said he admired the move from afar.
“I thought it was well-thought out. It was classy,” Durant said. “It was a great move to do it as a letter. That was pretty cool. It’s funny seeing guys think about more than just basketball for once. He thought about the city where he comes from, about Northeast Ohio and how he can affect so many of the kids just being there playing basketball. I love that.
“So many guys get criticized for making the decision that’s best for them instead of what’s best for everybody else. He’s a guy that did that. You gotta respect that. I applauded him. I texted him and told him congratulations on the decision and told him I was happy for him. Everybody thought that was a great move. As a fan of the game, it’s going to be pretty cool to see him back in Cleveland.”
As for what would keep him in Oklahoma City, Durant even declined to feed into the hypothetical idea of the Thunder possibly winning the NBA championship in the next two seasons.
“Two years straight? That would be cool,” he said. “That would be one of those things where you’re getting into a dynasty. But I don’t want to think too far down the line. I’m just trying to focus on today. I love my teammates, my coaches, the front office, the city. We’ll see.”