Kevin Durant is close with Carmelo Anthony, Derek Fisher and a couple of Knicks assistants who worked for Oklahoma City. He’s impressed with rookie sensation Kristaps Porzingis and the Knicks’ roster. He loves New York and playing at the Garden.
All of that means Durant will be signing with the Knicks this summer when he becomes a free agent. Or does it?
The Knicks appear to be in the running, but you can make a case for several teams.
The Thunder can pay Durant the most money. He’s a king in Oklahoma City, he’s playing with Russell Westbrook and the Thunder can contend every year.
The Wizards are his hometown team, and he can play with John Wall and Bradley Beal and become an East power.
The Heat and Pat Riley are always in play. It’s Miami, and Durant could team with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and try to make a championship run.
A plausible scenario: Durant, who torched the Knicks for 44 points in Wednesday night’s overtime win, could sign a two-year deal with the Thunder with an opt-out after Year 1, as LeBron James did with Cleveland. Then Durant and Westbrook could be free agents together in 2017 — and both could bolt for the Lakers.
(Westbrook is from Southern California and went to UCLA. Durant has a place in Los Angeles. See, you can make any scenario work.)
Or perhaps in 2017, Durant could take a harder look at the Knicks if they’re more established and Porzingis continues to develop into a star.
There’s no doubt the Knicks are more enticing with Porzingis, whom Durant complimented by calling him “a unicorn.” Most free agents will give them a longer look because they’re exciting, are playing better and have a legit franchise cornerstone in the 7-3 20-year-old from Latvia.
A front line of Anthony, Durant and Porzingis would be tough to stop and make the Knicks an elite team. But they would need to be creative with the cap and roster — trade, renounce and/or amnesty players — to have the money to sign Durant. Besides, their first priority should be a point guard. As good as that front line could be, someone needs to get them the basketball.
Derek Fisher probably would say the Knicks don’t need a point guard to run the triangle offense because the parts are interchangeable. But the Knicks need a point guard or combo guard who not only can create but can prevent opposing guards from getting in the lane and wreaking havoc, which has been a problem for several years.
There are reports that the Knicks have spoken to the Hawks about Jeff Teague. They could inquire about Detroit’s Brandon Jennings before next month’s trade deadline. But if they strike out, Phil Jackson should meet with Grizzlies guard Mike Conley Jr. at 12:01 a.m. July 1.
Everything has to play itself out. One of the most apropos things Durant said while he was praising everything about the Knicks and the city was: “They link everybody with New York . . . they link everybody. It’s not just me.”
James was linked to New York in 2010. It didn’t work out. Greg Monroe, LaMarcus Aldridge and Marc Gasol were linked to the Knicks last summer. None of them came. Let it play out.
The Knicks’ first priority should be the point guard position, and then an athletic wing who can play and defend multiple positions.
Those are areas in which the Knicks need big upgrades. But getting Durant would be a major upgrade, too, and would make the Knicks an immediate contender — if it actually happened.