The Rockets have planned for years to pursue Kevin Durant in free agency this summer. By the fall, they reportedly intended to do “everything they reasonably can” to get him. Signing him was reportedly still a central goal in February.
Houston, you have a problem.
Marc Stein of ESPN:
A year ago, the Rockets won 56 games and reached the Western Conference finals. They had runner-up MVP James Harden, a close friend of Durant after their days together with the Thunder. They were supposed to take a step back that season after hemorrhaging depth to clear cap space that failed to lure a star free agent. But the team thrived, and general manager Daryl Morey and coach Kevin McHale looked savvy in their ability to cultivate a productive supporting cast on the fly.
Houston looked like a team that could entice Durant.
Now, the Rockets are viewed as one of of the league’s most disenchanting teams. Stars James Harden and Dwight Howard don’t get along, though at least Howard is likely leaving this summer. Harden gives minimal effort on defense, and that contributes to a culture where accountability is low. The role players regressed, and Houston won just 41 games.
This is why pursuing superstar free agents is so tricky. You have to plan ahead for years and time your peak correctly. If Durant were a free agent last summer, he might have signed with the Rockets. Now, it seems their moment has passed.
The question is what they’ll do. Durant doesn’t officially eliminate teams from consideration, and they could continue a last-ditch effort to change his mind. They’re now positioned with most of the league. Of course they want Durant, but Durant almost certainly isn’t coming. So do they try anyway and hope for the best, or do allocate their time and money elsewhere?