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ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on Monday’s episode of Get Up! that the Golden State Warriors organization is preparing for “possibly seismic change” this summer when Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson are free agents:
“Internally in Golden State, there’s a sense of let’s try to put aside what’s coming in July. We have a chance to do something very rare in sports, to three-peat. Let’s try to keep our focus there and win the title, then let July play out the way it’s going to. But I think the Warriors are bracing for possibly seismic change within that organization.”
Durant’s future has been the subject of widespread speculation throughout the 2018-19 season, at times even deeply impacting the Warriors locker room. While the Warriors have held themselves together publicly after Draymond Green’s publicized spat with Durant in November, there has been an overwhelming sentiment that these could be KD’s final games in Golden State.
The New York Knicks have been so regularly mentioned as a destination that Durant criticized the media for its reporting in February. The Knicks will have two maximum contract slots available and are expected to pursue Durant and a second co-star, perhaps Kyrie Irving.
“I don’t know if there’s a lot of talking that has to happen between the Warriors and Kevin Durant,” Wojnarowski said. “I think he knows what it is, what he wants, and there may be nothing the Warriors can do or say to change that.”
Thompson is also a free agent, and Wojnarowski said his status is a matter of money. If the Warriors offer Thompson a five-year, $190 max contract, it’s believed he will re-sign with the organization.
“If they come with a five-year, $190 million max deal for Klay Thompson, that’s done on July 1—he’s going into the new building with Steph Curry,” Wojnarowski said. “If they try to do anything less than that, you can expect Klay Thompson to be out in free agency. Watch not for the Lakers, then, but the Clippers.”
The Warriors will hand Durant any contract option he wants and hope he re-signs. Durant has embraced the tech industry since being in the Bay Area, and he famously toured the Chase Center in a construction outfit. It’s possible that Durant wants to be part of the contingent that opens up the NBA‘s newest premier arena.
However, Durant is also keenly aware of his standing in history and has a sensitivity toward criticism. He’s been the NBA’s biggest villain since joining a 73-win Warriors team in 2016. Even with all of his accomplishments in Golden State—two championships, a pair of Finals MVPs, a series of jaw-dropping playoff performances—there are some who believe Durant took the easy way out.
Leaving the Warriors and carving his own path, particularly reviving the perpetually downtrodden Knicks, may be the only way to quell that criticism. Couple that with business partner Rich Kleiman’s longstanding Knicks fandom and the potential to grow Durant’s media empire in New York, and there are plenty of reasons to believe there’s fire to the smoke.
The easiest path to winning, however, is to maintain the status quo in Golden State.