This is the player movement era. Veteran stars that have the option to test the free agent market almost all will in today’s NBA. It’s the landscape ushered in by LeBron James‘ first decision in 2010 and the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement put into place a year-and-a-half later. As James’ decision to opt-out of his contract to test the market dominates headlines, Kevin Durant recently made some of his by supporting the decision of his fellow superstar.
According to the Washington Post, Durant said yesterday that he doesn’t understand the commotion surrounding James’ free agency.
I don’t know what the big deal is. 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.
Durant’s current deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder expires in 2016. The 2014 MVP receives consistent plaudits for small-market loyalty and was widely praised in 2010 – right after “The Decision” – by announcing his contract extension with the Thunder in a tweet. Thus, his take on free agency and James in general is sure to ruffle some feathers.
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 and James have grown close over the past few years, winning a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics and even pairing up for offseason workouts after the Miami Heat defeated the Thunder in the 2012 Finals. It’s not surprising that KD would defend his friend, nor so that he’d refuse to commit one way or another on his forthcoming decision in two years.
It’s interesting that he invokes Duncan’s name, though. Durant is frequently compared with the five-time champion as much for his soft-spoken demeanor and limitless talent as he is for a seeming desire to stay with a small-market organization his entire career. That latter point has always been projection and wishful thinking, however, and that KD understands there’s been precedent for testing the free agent market long before LeBron came along is certainly worth noting.
All of that said, Oklahoma City fans shouldn’t get depressed just yet. As Durant said, it simply makes sense for superstars to become free agents to explore their options in today’s NBA. That KD is aware of that fact doesn’t mean he’s going anywhere in two years, just that we could be in for another round of hysteria as the world’s second best player hits the open market for the first time.
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