After the Thunder beat the Spurs and got up 3 games to 1 on the Warriors, all dreams of Kevin Durant leaving Oklahoma City were dashed against the rocks. Then a funny thing happened... well, funny for some and not so funny to the Thunder. They were overwhelmed by the Golden State Warriors (a historically great team), and now there's at least a glimmer of hope that Durant might seriously test the free agency waters in a month's time.
Here's how a dejected Durant sounded on the night that his team was eliminated.
"We will figure it out," Durant said. "I will talk to my agent, my best friend and my dad. Just talk to those three guys and get some advice from other people. But for the most part, I will talk to them in the next couple of weeks. I don’t even know where my mind is right now. "I can’t think about what is going to happen in a month. I’m just thinking about what we’ve all been through as a team and embrace my brothers right now."
He'll have time to digest his team's performance, contemplate his future, and watch the Finals with plans on getting there again someday. He'll also get more than a few calls from recruiting players around the league, including our own Isaiah Thomas.
"I'm going to be really active [in recruiting]," Thomas told Sirius XM NBA Radio from the NBA draft lottery in New York earlier this month. "[Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] wants me to be active. Whatever he needs me to do, I’m there. All he says is, ‘When I call, answer.’ I’m going to be ready." Added Thomas: "We’re a step away. We’re a couple pieces away, I think, from being contenders in the Eastern Conference. We won 48 games this year with a team that people didn’t think could do that. That says a lot about the direction we’re going in, and I know Danny and those guys in the front office are going to do whatever they can to make this team the best possible team it can be."
So is there a realistic chance that the Celtics could sign Durant? I haven't the foggiest idea. I do believe that they'll try, and I'm even a bit optimistic that they'll get a meeting to make their pitch to him.
There's even one rumor out there that indicates that Durant's reps let it be known what moves the Celtics would have to make for him to consider moving to Boston.
Butch Sterns: "I have this on pretty good authority: The Celtics have sat with his agent and other representatives of Durant. The Celtics do know — I don’t know who it is — but they do know who he would prefer to be brought here in a LeBron-Chris Bosh-Dwyane Wade-like way. Because that’s how it works in the NBA. You need to know who the guy or guys that that guy wants, which would be a factor "Now, I don’t know if Durant’s told them that. But the Celtics know. They know. They’ve been told what group of guys he would want to come here."
The Celtics are already motivated to make moves leading up to the draft, and if they know those moves will increase their chances in the Durant lottery, even better. If they can maneuver their way into a package free agent deal (they do have the ability to create room for two max contracts) that's great too.
With all of that said, it is worth noting that Kevin Durant can make the most potential money by signing a short term contract to stay in OKC—then turn around and sign a longer contract later.
As covered in this cyberspace in May, when we detailed the San Antonio Spurs' plan to make a free-agent run at No. 35, most of the league's best-placed observers on the subject continue to see Durant's most probable choice as staying in OKC for the short term. That would mean signing a two-year deal with a player option after Year 1 that allows him to return to free agency in July 2017 ... alongside Russell Westbrook.
So there's a good chance that we'll be playing this what-if game at this time next year as well.
Stay tuned for rumors and updates all summer long.