Kevin Durant will embark on his third season when he’s introduced to the locals at today’s media day. And by all accounts, 2009-10 will be the season that catapults him to superstar status.
But while his prominence progresses over the course of the season, it will be the summer months of the off-season that will decide his future with the franchise. The Thunder can enter into contract extension talks with Durant next July, with NBA rules permitting the two sides to sign up to a five-year extension through 2015-16. Durant has repeatedly professed his preference to remain in Oklahoma City long term, but there is one factor that could ultimately close the sale. Continuity. When decision day arrives for Durant, he will look up and find himself surrounded by complementary young talent that he’s grown up with in Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. It’s a not-so small factor that could provide comfort to a player who this season will play in the same city in consecutive seasons for just the first time since his early high school days. Familiarity alone certainly won’t get Durant’s signature on a long-term contract. But money won’t be an issue, as the Thunder already has cleared more than enough salary cap space to re-sign Durant to a max deal. The organization, in a short amount of time, also has proved to have ideal players in the front office and a supportive fan base in the Ford Center. And Durant has often said his laid-back personality meshes well with Oklahoma City’s low-key environment.