As expected, Kevin Durant has declined his $31.5-million option with the Warriors, paving the way for his foray into free agency at the end of the month. Prior to the formal transmittal of his decision early this week, a number of quarters made the case that he would benefit from exercising it given his protracted recovery from surgery to repair his torn Achilles tendon. By the time he’s good to go next year, they argued, he can command top dollar whether he decides to stay or not. The premise is flawed, however. Even now, he has no shortage of suitors willing to break the bank for his services, hence eliminating the need for him to wait for his humongous payoff.
Curiously, the surprise comes not from Durant’s camp, but from the Knicks, who are said to be thinking twice about going after him in light of the wasted season they’ll have to absorb should they succeed in wooing him. His sidelining notwithstanding, he will want no less than a maximum contract. Which, for the blue and orange, effectively means they’ll be forking over $164 million for three years’ worth of work. And having been deemed in the driver’s seat prior to his injury, their supposed vacillation is nothing if not confounding.
The flipside, of course, is that the Knicks need Durant far more than he needs them. In fact, he doesn’t need them. At all. Not with the Nets waiting in the wings and all too ready to likewise provide him with the trappings or burning rubber in the media capital of the world. Meanwhile, they continue to scrape the bottom of the barrel, their shoddy reputation perpetuated by poor performances on the court and worsened by head-scratching moves off it. Instead of viewing him as a valuable ambassador during his time of convalescence, they seem to want to count beans and peg him as an expense they can do without.
Perhaps the Knicks will come to their senses quickly and do what’s right. Durant loves New York, and, more importantly, the prospect of rescuing it from the doldrums. It appeals to his sensitive nature and ultimate objective of etching his name among the best of the best in the annals of the sport. It’s certainly no coincidence that he and agent Rich Kleiman are in the city (although, it must be noted, Martin O’Malley, the physician who operated on him, works for the Nets). In any case, they would do well to take the plunge. For all the risks involved, they can’t not go all in. Not when they require saving — most of all from themselves.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing the Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.