Posted Apr 20 2010 10:16AM
Kevin Durant is surrendering his bargaining position. Flat out giving it up. Maybe forfeiting millions of dollars, even tens of millions, in the process. And get this: He doesn't care.
This is about sending a message to a franchise and a city while ending what to him has become a surprising level of guesswork on his future. So, in a move that makes little business sense but every bit of common sense -- and in the process says more about him than any scoring title or playoff appearance ever could -- Durant goes for direct.
He is taking a long-term contract with the Thunder. If the reasonable offer comes this summer, he will sign. But if it doesn't -- and this is where it gets good -- he will not be upset. He will not try to pressure, guilt, cajole, debate or threaten the team into a deal.
He will merely wait until the next summer and sign then, if that's the Thunder's preference.
Wanting to halt the mounting speculation that owner Clay Bennett and general manager Sam Presti will forever alienate him if they refuse to offer a max contract at the earliest possible moment, Durant is committing himself to Oklahoma City no matter what.
"If it doesn't happen this summer, as long as I know I'm going to be here, then I'm happy," Durant said. "And if it happens the summer after that, fine. I would like to get it tied down as quick as possible. But if it doesn't happen like that, then everything happens for a reason. I'll still be happy to be here and come to work every day and be a great person and the great teammate that I am. It's all about just knowing that where there's a will there's a way. I'll get done if it's in the plans."
But ... but ... the snub. What about the slap of being the NBA's newest superstar, the face of the franchise, the hero in a region passionate about its sports and being told to take a place in line?
Durant simply must be disappointed at the front office. He must already be planning an exit strategy.
"I wouldn't, I wouldn't," Durant said. "I have faith that it'll hopefully get done. I have faith that these guys want me to be here for a while. Just as long as I'm playing the game of basketball."
But ... but ... what if there is no offer this summer? That obviously will drive a permanent wedge between you and the team.
"I'm not going to get upset at all," he said. "Not at all."
This is so Durant. He carries a low-maintenance greatness in the Tim Duncan mold, he's a dedicated worker and a willing listener with a rare combination of skills. He wants to remain part of Oklahoma City, the team and the place, so he says it. No mess.
The surprise to Durant, in the latest lesson of how life changes with this kind of ascension, has been reading and hearing about how this summer is shaping up as the Shootout at the O.K.C. Corral. Sign him or risk losing him. That's the presumption going around, untrue as it may be.
Many people simply can't imagine him wanting to stay in Oklahoma City which, in fact, is exactly what he wants. The intrigue now is how the Thunder will handle the situation, now that it's about to be front and center, now that Durant has blown up into a top-five player and has become the closest to a sure-thing investment in this universe.
The calendar is the major consideration. Durant can sign an extension this summer, coming off a scoring title and the team's jump to 50 wins and the playoffs. Or the Thunder can put off the decision until summer 2011. Also known as the summer with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, or the early days of the lockout that will result in a new CBA. A CBA that players and owners recognize will be with much tighter restrictions on salaries.
The difference between Durant signing in another few months or another year could be tens of millions of dollars. Presti has done a masterful job of managing the salary cap, but the Thunder are aware of the financial drawbacks of being in a small market. They're very budget conscious.
Wanting to lock up Durant is a no-brainer. When they will do it is not as clear, with team officials offering no hints. But they want him, obviously.
More importantly, Durant wants them -- no matter what.
Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here.
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