Kevin Durant unveiled the KD 7 in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, and during a brief Q&A session was asked about LeBron’s decision to opt out of his final year.
“I don’t know what the big deal is,” Durant said, via the Washington Post. “You know, as a player, I think that’s the best way to go about it. You can have all your options. It’s better for you as a player to opt-out, because you can get a market deal, you can get more years. You never know what will happen if you pass up on that. So I didn’t know what the big deal was. I’m sure it was a decision he made — something he was thinking about — for him and his family.”
When Durant signed with the Thunder in 2010, announcing it with his simple tweet, he also quietly did it for the full five-year max. Most players added in a player option after the fourth season to create that flexibility, but Durant actually requested the contract be for the full five years in order to reciprocate loyalty back to the Thunder.
“I’ve always been a loyal person,” Durant said after signing his deal in 2010. “I just love this organization, what we stand for, which is family. I’m really big on that. This is the only place for me. I told everybody a couple of years back that I wanted to be a part of this organization, so I stuck with it.”
Durant was also asked about the perception that players like him and Tim Duncan are loyal, but LeBron isn’t because he left Cleveland and may be doing the same to Miami.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” Durant said. “I don’t think anything that you guys criticize LeBron [about] is fair. He switched teams; he’s not the first guy to do it. He decided to opt out; he’s not the first guy to do it. Sometimes a lot of people criticize him a little bit too much for doing normal things, doing stuff that everybody has done. [Even] Tim Duncan went into free agency before. He got courted by quite a few teams. We’ll see what happens with me, but everybody’s done the same thing. He’s not the first.”
Durant is referring to Duncan’s flirtation with the Magic in 2000, where he ultimately turned them down to remain with the Spurs.
There’s a natural comparison to LeBron and Durant because of their career trajectories, but they are in differing situations. What LeBron was experiencing in Cleveland is a lot different than Durant’s setup in OKC. Still: As 2016 nears, every little thing Durant says is going to be a reminder that he has a choice coming. And so much of it will hinge on whether he feels Oklahoma City is the place to establish his legacy.
I can tell you this: There will be 29 other teams that will be salivating over the prospect of adding Durant. But there’s already the assumption KD will lean toward the Wizards because of the hometown connection.
“I’ve been getting a lot lately,” he said. “But everybody knows I love OKC and knows that I’m under contract right now. A lot of people ask me, but I just try to stay focused on today, and I’ll worry about that when I get there.”
Now… deep breath. When Durant says anything about his future, everyone cringes and seizes up like they’ve been tased. But KD has always been extremely diplomatic when asked about other players — especially LeBron — preferring to side and defend them as much as possible. Durant’s past actions though, speak pretty loudly.
And 2016 is still a long way away, and KD hasn’t given much thought at all about what he might do. He’s thinking about the next season, and then the one after that. Take care of business in those, and this all might be quite moot.