The competing stories, days apart, one from ESPN, the other from Yahoo Sports, about Kevin Durant to the Lakers- yes, he will consider them, no he won’t– makes it obvious that all of this is a guessing game as no one knows what Kevin Durant is going to do, not even the team with the most realistic opportunity of signing him, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
For the Lakers, this is a story that will not die. In October, Stephen A. Smith of ESPN said that he had been told by “sources” that the Lakers are a team Kevin Durant would consider when his free agency hits in July of 2016. It sounded peculiar from the outset. The Lakers are a team of rookies and second year players and a coach who seems confused as to how to mentor them in this current area of floor spacing and ball movement. Why would an established All-Star, the third best player in the league, risk his prime years in an organization that is rebuilding and attempting (badly) to develop players when Durant could be on a contender, playing for a title?
Durant was furious at the report, called Stephen A. Smith a liar, said he was “making up stories.” Smith, never one to fall back from a fight, went full blast on Durant, saying:
“You are in no position to question my credibility, whatsoever. As a matter of fact, one would argue what position are you in to question the credibility of anyone in the media…Are you saying you are not going to consider the second largest market in the United States of America, particularly when Kobe Bryant is scheduled to depart and it’s clearly a home that Russell Westbrook who starred at UCLA might not mind going to a year after you go? ….Kevin Durant is the last person who should be going off on the media like that.”
Since that very public scathing by Smith on ESPN’s First Take, all has been quiet on the Kevin Durant to L.A. front until this past weekend when Stephen A. was in town to do the Clippers-Bulls game. He went on local talk radio and clarified his position. He reconfirmed his earlier report about Durant to the Lakers and then added a twist. He said the reason L.A. was intriguing to Durant was because of the possibility of Russell Westbrook coming the following year, when he was a free agent in 2017. The Lakers are one of the few teams with the money to pull off max players in back-t0-back years.
Naturally, Stephen A. Smith’s opinion got picked up by just about everyone; Durant heard it. You know he did. It got everyone to speculating about the possibility, even as it is still so far-fetched, it falls into the dream category.
Not surprisingly, this morning, respected Yahoo NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski, had a total opposite view from “sources” saying that Durant has zero interest in the Lakers and that the Warriors are at the top of his wish list, if he does leave Oklahoma City.
What is going on here with two such divergent viewpoints?
Stephen A. has stayed consistent. He believes what he said in October is the truth and he believes it in February. The change is reflective of the calendar. It is February, a boring NBA month. Like LeBron James, Durant’s free agency has a bit of the melodrama involved. Someone might get left. Betrayal is lurking around the corner.
Durant’s people have gotten media savvy as well. No more calling Stephen A. a liar only to be slammed in the media like a Tyson punch to the jaw. No. Just let it be what it is. It’s only going to get worse as more teams are added to the Durant mix.
It’s a scary thought but the Warriors, with creative financing, can get Durant. They’d have to cut ties with Harrison Barnes, trade Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala, and hope that Durant doesn’t wants the full $32 million that is estimated to be the max player salary once the cap increases. It could be done. But should it? Should the Warriors blow up their team to accommodate an iso scorer who happens to be the NBA’s third best player?
Yesterday, Steph Curry said the Warriors felt a sense of urgency to win now “while this team is together.” There is something to be said for not breaking up the chemistry the Warriors have and keeping everyone together until this team runs its course like all great teams do. If they win it this year, the Warriors deserve that much. Durant on the Warriors adds a lot of questions, particularly how would an iso scorer like Durant fit in with a team of floor spacers and ball movers?
Does Kevin Durant know what he really wants? Let’s say he does go to Golden State, and they blow up their team to make it work financially and the Warriors don’t get their 3-peat, who is going to be blamed? Durant. He has already shown a level of sensitivity where the media is concerned.
Of course, Durant on the Lakers means no pressure. It also means no titles. The Lakers supporting personnel are still growing to develop skills that can function on a NBA court. Footwork on both ends of the floor, shooting consistency and ball movement are the most pressing needs.
In the midst of a losing streak, are the Lakers kids so beaten down they have lost the will to compete? Can Byron Scott restore the confidence of his young players. D’Angelo Russell seems to be particularly brutalized by the Scott dictatorship. He told David Aldridge of NBA.com:
“You don’t know what to ask (of Byron). So like, I turned the ball over. I know I turned the ball over and I’m coming out the game. I’m not sure that’s why you’re pulling me out, but I’m not sure what to ask. There’s nothing that you can possible say that’s going to bring that turnover back or anything that I can possibly do. I don’t know what to ask. It’s like, he wouldn’t, I don’t know, tell me if I don’t ask. So that’s where it’s kind of a blur. I don’t know what I don’t know.”
An apt description of the Lakers this season. They don’t know what they don’t know. And no one knows where Durant will be in 2016-17.
photos via llananba