Kevin Durant’s season is over. If the reigning MVP makes good on his most recent recent remarks concerning the future, though, his tenure as face of the Oklahoma City Thunder won’t be for a long, long time.
Speaking publicly earlier today after undergoing successful surgery on his troublesome right foot, Durant – who has the option to become a free agent in the summer of 2016 – said he hopes to have his jersey retired by the Thunder someday and “loves it” in Oklahoma City.
Here’s Durant via Royce Young of ESPN.com:
“I love it here, man. I love my teammates, I love the city, I don’t really think about anywhere else,” Durant told Revolt TV in a recent interview. “I hear it all the time, don’t get me wrong, and once you hear it you’re kind of like [looks up, thinking]. But for me, I love staying in the moment, and I’m one of those guys that would love to stick it out with one team my whole career.
“Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki type. That’s awesome,” he said. “But you never know what the future holds sometimes and how teams may feel about you after a while, but I love it here and I would love to get my jersey retired here.”
Bryant, Duncan, and Nowitzki, of course, have played the entireties of their legendary and future Hall-of-Fame careers for a single franchise. Though Durant has yet to make a firm commitment concerning his impending free agency, rumors have run rampant since before the season that he’d consider signing with his hometown Washington Wizards next July.
The 26 year-old all but locked the door on that possibility Tuesday, insisting that he serves the D.C. area regardless of where he plays and wants to put thick roots down in Central Oklahoma.
“I love playing for Oklahoma City, man. There’s just a certain level of pride that I have when I play with that Oklahoma City on my chest,” he said then. “So that’s the only thing I’m focused on. Everybody knows that I represent where I come from that no matter where I play at, no matter what arena. But I’m just focused on playing with Oklahoma City. It feels like home now. That’s where I am.”
Note that Durant never goes so far as to say he’ll sign a new deal with the Thunder, let alone elect against giving the free agent market a legitimate test. Still, this is the most promising indication yet for off blue- clad fans across the midwest that their hero will remain in the place he became a full-fledged superstar.
Don’t expect the drama surrounding Durant’s free agency to die down, however. Assuming he doesn’t sign an extension with Oklahoma City in advance of next season, the league’s marquee franchises will come calling in July 2016 with hordes of cap space due to a massive spike in the salary cap that happens to coincide with Durant’s availability. In addition to offering him a four-year maximum contract and the chance for a fresh start, suitors will court the Texas product by promising to surround him with other star players from his free agent class.
But that’s a discussion for another day. Now, the Thunder should simply take solace from the greatest indication yet that Durant isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.