Last spring, Knicks owner James Dolan publicly predicted success in free agency. Everyone assumed he was referring to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. As he later admitted, Durant decided midway through last season to leave the Warriors. He and Irving reportedly hatched and crystalized a plan to team up even sooner. Durant’s company was moving to New York.
Of course, the situation evolved.
Durant and Golden State began a deep playoff run, which could’ve pushed him toward re-signing. Durant then ruptured his Achilles – another major life-altering event. Durant and Irving signed with the Nets.
some people in touch with the Knicks said members of the organization expressed confidence that Durant would have signed with New York if he hadn’t suffered the Achilles injury in the NBA Finals, per SNY sources.
The spin coming from New York is incredible. The Knicks claimed they didn’t offer Durant a max contract due to his injury. Even if technically true, it’s impossible to believe that’s accurate. New York surely would’ve offered the max if he wanted to come.
To be fair, Durant reportedly strongly considered the Knicks in free agency. Now that he’s in Brooklyn, he’s incentivized to emphasize his loyalty to the Nets, even if he was previously torn between the New York rivals. It’s possible Durant would’ve signed with the Knicks had he been healthy.
But we also live in reality, not that counterfactual. In either timeline, the Nets are better-run organization with a better incumbent roster. Though they don’t have the historic prestige of the Knicks, the Nets made themselves into a real threat for free agents. It’s perfectly logical for Durant to choose Brooklyn, injured or not.
The Knicks made a risky trade, moving Kristaps Porzingis to clear cap space. The plan flopped. All that’s left if this wishful thinking, which not only may or may not be true, but is also unprovable. Not even Durant can know precisely how he would’ve felt if healthy heading into free agency – especially considering a healthy Durant might have helped the Warriors win the 2019 championship, potentially strengthening his ties to Golden State.
This is starting to resemble Durant’s previous free agency. After he signed with the Warriors in 2016, the Celtics and Clippers declared themselves second- and third-place finishers. Durant later said the Thunder were his second choice.
Maybe Durant will eventually address this theory, trying to put himself in the shoes of a healthy free agent last summer. For now, it’s not credible coming from the Knicks as they desperately try to save face.