It’s intriguing that more than a year after Kevin Durant’s decision, some are still making this about him not choosing the Knicks versus the more compelling dynamic of him choosing Brooklyn ... and building something he can call his own.
In the latest criticism of Durant, the New York Post headlined a piece, “Kevin Durant was quickly turned off by the idea of being Knicks savior” in which he is scrutinized for “avoiding the pressure” that comes with playing for the Knicks. (Durant never mentioned “pressure” in his podcast interview with J.J. Redick by the way.) it led to a flood of “I-told-you-so” social media posts Knick faithful saying Durant was afraid of the bright lights, big city.
In addition to simply not wanting to play for the team, KD noted how he resented the Knicks speculation, calling it “just the media putting it out there.” It started when he signed a one-year deal with Golden State instead of a three-year deal back in 2018. “Once I signed a (one-year deal), the noise got louder about me going to the Knicks for some reason.”
Should we mention the season ticket promotion the Knicks ran in early February 2019 with KD as the centerpiece presumed KD acolyte Mitchell Robinson in the background. They had to take that down after media suggested it might be false advertising ... or perhaps even tampering...
Knicks statement on including KD’s photo in season ticket promotion:— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) February 11, 2019
“Game action photos are used all the time for marketing purposes, but given everything going on, we took precaution of taking the photo down. To be clear, it was one of several rotating photos on the website.”
That whole spring was one rumor after another, one big blue-and-orange hope.
In a famous March 12, 2019 interview, a month after the aborted STH promotion, a jazzed James Dolan told Michael Kay, “From what we’ve heard, we’re going to have a very successful offseason.” In that same conversation, he touted “the mecca of basketball,” which considering what KD told Redick was not the lure Dolan thought it was. In fact, it was a turnoff.
As late as May 11, Stephen A. Smith led a chorus of pundits suggesting it was all a done deal, going on ESPN to state, “According to folks, I’ve spoken to, they’d put chances at 95 percent that KD and Kyrie come to New York next season.” Later, Stephen A. seemed to say he got carried away by fan enthusiasm. So, it was, in fact, an echo chamber.
There was even a famous meme that was produced in various forms and tweeted by various media and Knick fans, up until the Draft Lottery anyway...
But it was ALL for naught, Durant said he decided in February that he had no interest in going to the Garden. That famous video of him talking with Kyrie Irving in a hallway on All-Star Weekend? Had nothing to do with anything.
Then, a mere two hours after the Woj tweet about the Nets “Clean Sweep.” the sour grapes campaign began...
The Knicks and owner Jim Dolan were not prepared to offer Kevin Durant a full max contract due to concerns over his recovery from the Achilles injury, league sources tell me and @wojespn. Knicks officials are in Los Angeles tonight, meeting with free agents such as Julius Randle.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) June 30, 2019
So, they never wanted him to begin with, right? Wrong, as early as January 31, they traded Kristaps Porzingis for cap space to be used to sign two free agents, presumably Durant and Kyrie Irving. But they couldn’t even get a meeting, not with him, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, etc, etc.
So why are we having said discussion ... again? Knicks fans seem to believe that Durant was obligated to take the job ... or at least tell them he wasn’t interested. He could have been the “savior” of the franchise, the King of New York! But really, why did someone have to be the “savior” when they had already found their match, their niche, in Brooklyn for reasons that he’s has cited before, going back to Nets Media Day nearly a year ago?
“I just want to play ball and go to the crib and chill,” he told Redick. “So I felt like that’s what Brooklyn embodied. And I wanted to live in New York. And I felt like Brooklyn is everything I’m about — chill, on the low, all-black everything, we’re quiet. Just focus on basketball. There’s no show when you come to our games. No Madison Square, no Mecca. All of that sh—. We’re just going to hoop and build something new in Brooklyn.”
Fans can get so caught up in discussing what player “A” should do ... as if we have any jurisdiction to tell another man/woman what they should or shouldn’t do with their life. It’s their decision, their life.
If you watched KD’s documentary “The Offseason” in 2014, you’ll hear him reiterate the point that he just wants to play basketball. That’s it, quite literally. Whether it’s with his friends in his backyard or on the court in the NBA. He may not seem like a complex person, but he is direct, sometimes very, very direct, which makes it easy to understand why he chose Brooklyn and not the team across the river.
As he told Redick, “I didn’t care about being a King of New York. That never really moved me. I didn’t care about being on Broadway…[and] that shit – I just want to play ball and go to the crib and chill you know.”
It doesn’t mean he’s “avoiding pressure.” He’ll have plenty of that. The “pressure” he has on him is bringing a championship to Brooklyn. Nothing more, nothing less. And the rest is water under the bridge, over the dam, including this imaginary idea, foisted on Knicks fans who then fermented it into fine wine, that he wanted to join the Knicks.
There are reasons we should be talking about why he chose the Brooklyn Nets rather than not selecting the New York Knicks. He liked the team Sean Marks had put in place. Recently, he spoke highly about Nets Governor Joe Tsai.
“Having that new energy in the organization is definitely going to help,” KD said on Barstool’s “On the Corp” podcast. “Joe Tsai definitely appreciates having players like myself and Kyrie, veteran guys that have won championships. As he enters the NBA, that’s definitely going to help him out. It’s a great partnership, I’m looking forward to actually getting out on the court and playing for the Nets.”
And of course, this is the closest he’s been to home since he left Washington D.C. to play at Texas, then Seattle, then Oklahoma City and finally Golden State.
“I was thinking about [where] for a long time,” KD said on the “On the Corp” podcast. “Where I wanted to take my life and not just free agency, where I wanted to live, do in the next five years, being in New York City, being around family and friends. Maryland is only 2 1⁄2 hours away so my family can come up on the train easily.”
Maybe it’s time to embrace, my orange-and-blue friends, the idea that, yes, he can do something special where he is rather than focusing on where he isn’t. Yes, there IS pressure to win in Brooklyn. He can be the first player to bring an NBA championship to the Nets, and the first championship a Brooklyn team has seen since the Dodgers won in 1955.
And perhaps, maybe we can stop this discussion, this frenzy, that was brought on by gross media speculation about not joining the Knicks, because he made it very clear that was never the case on Redick’s podcast.
“I never planned on going to the Knicks.”
And that’s that.