It’s just how things are now. We don’t talk about 2014. We talk about 2016. As soon as a presidential election ends, we immediately talk about who could run four years later. There’s often more interest in what might happen and who might go where than what is happening and who is where.
With LeBron James now in place for at least the next few seasons, and the Kevin Love trade talk simmering a bit, attention has turned back to Kevin Durant and his pending free agency two seasons away. It seems ridiculous, but really, it’s relevant. Durant will be 27 and likely the best or second best player in the world. He’ll be the biggest free agent since, well, LeBron.
Durant is currently at Team USA training camp in Las Vegas and so far he’s had just a handful of questions about Spain and the Gasol brothers and a whole lot about Washington D.C. and the summer of 2016. He was asked about LeBron’s move back to Cleveland — he called it “classy” — and then things turned back to him.
“I’m going to do what’s best for me,” Durant said, via ESPN.com. “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. I grew up watching the Bullets/Wizards. 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.”
The assumption is that Durant is going to be drawn back to D.C. to join the Wizards. Why? Because one, he currently plays in Oklahoma City and who would ever stay in Oklahoma City, right? And two, because that’s the area he’s from and since LeBron went home, therefore Durant probably will as well.
“Look, we going to put it out on tape,” Durant said. “It’s been talked about. 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, [and] 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.”
(On SportsCenter Wednesday, Durant talked with Darren Rovell and went as far to say that he’s deleting Twitter off his phone for now because of the constant needling about 2016.)
One thing to know about Kevin Durant: He’s his own man. He may very well go back to D.C. in 2016, but it won’t be because LeBron did it first. If anything, I would guess that offends Durant somewhat, the idea that he’s following LeBron’s lead. Whether it’s because of a desire to go home or because he’s searching for the best contender in 2016, Durant is going to do what he wants to do.
The feeling is overwhelming that unless the Thunder win a title in the next two years, Durant will bolt. But here’s another angle to that: Couldn’t the Thunder winning a title actually increase the risk of Durant leaving? He’s always talked about how much he wants a title for Oklahoma City, and should he get one for the city, he may check the box and feel like his next goal should be delivering one for his hometown. If the Thunder come up empty the next two seasons he may feel like there’s unfinished business in OKC — especially with Westbrook and Ibaka under contract for the 2016-17 season — and come back.
Obviously that doesn’t mean it would be a bad thing for the Thunder to win a title in the next two years because one championship alone is timeless, but I just don’t subscribe to the notion OKC has to win a title or else. For a lot of different reasons.
And that’s kind of my point: With it being still two years away, so many different factors can influence this thing. Most of them probably haven’t even happened. The Durant that will make the choice in 2016 isn’t the Durant that’s answering questions today, same as he’s not the one that inked a five-year extension in 2010.
When 2016 rolls around, Durant’s decision will center almost entirely around what the future of the contract will hold. What team gives him the best chance to win? Where can he find the most success? The will be plenty of other variables, but at the heart of his choice will be basketball. Because that’s all Kevin Durant has ever been about.