Kevin Durant is wise to spurn the Rockets in free agency

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Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Kevin Durant, James Harden
Photo via: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-132016 ORIG FILE ID: 20130424_ajw_ax3_145.jpg

The Houston Rockets were hoping to secure a meeting with superstar free agent to be Kevin Durant in hopes of luring him to H-Town to play with former running mate James Harden, but according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Durant’s level of interest in playing for the Rockets is minimal.

Sources told ESPN.com that Harden’s Houston Rockets are not a team Durant plans to consider when he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1, despite Harden’s presence there and the Rockets’ long-known intent to try to chase him.

At least one picture of Durant and Harden at a restaurant has circulated this week via Instagram, leading to inevitable speculation about Harden trying to recruit his former Oklahoma City Thunder colleague to Houston. But sources insist ‎the visit is nothing out of the ordinary ‎for them, given the players’ long-standing friendship, and particularly because Houston, sources say, is not a destination Durant intends to consider.

To me Durant is wise to spurn the Rockets, a franchise that was marred by dysfunction last season, in free agency.

Durant will be 28-years-old at the start of next season, and he’s obviously in the prime of his career. He’s amassed a slew of accomplishments that will rocket him to the Hall of Fame on first ballot status, (No pun intended I swear) but he’s yet to seize that evasive championship, the accolade that would really allow us to christen him as an all-time great.

Whomever KD signs with this offseason, he wants to be able to envision himself playing in the NBA Finals with that squad next June. Durant isn’t interested in going to a team in the midst of roster reconstruction, which would fritter away the meat of his prime. 

Hence why the Rockets are reported to be last in the Durant free agency dash. 

The Rockets were banking on the prospect of Durant being enticed to play with his good friend Harden, but KD hasn’t overlooked what went on in Houston in the 2015-16 campaign. 

After notching a Western Conference Finals appearance in 2015, the Rockets were pigeonholed into the West’s upper-crust. Many assumed they’d continue their ascension led by Harden’s heroics, but this season they faltered. 

Their defense regressed, the Dwight Howard and Harden relationship reached a stasis, and they fired head coach Kevin McHale eleven games into the season.

Simply put, things went wayward in Houston this year, and now after settling on Mike D’Antoni as their next head coach after about a thousand rounds of interviews with different candidates, they hope to creep back into the Conference’s upper echelon. 

Now, Durant and Harden’s relationship wouldn’t be likely to erode the way Harden and Howard’s did due to the fact that the two have history together, but all of the aforementioned anecdotes cannot be ignored. 

Durant covets stability, which is something this current Rockets team has not proven they can grant him. To go from Conference Finals to barely making the playoffs illustrates a seesaw pattern in how team operation, and that’s not the makeup of a championship team. 

Kevin Durant, James Harden
Photo via: USA Today

Could the insertion of Durant help propel them to that level? Yes. He’s one of the three best players in the world, an infusion of talent such as that on your roster can change your fortunes drastically. But he knows signing with the Rockets would be settling, and settling is not what breeds winners.

Also, how would Russell Westbrook feel if Durant were to depart from OKC just to voyage to Houston and play with Harden. It would leave a bad taste in The Brodie’s mouth that’s for sure, although I’m not sure how much bearing it would have on Durant’s decision.

It’s Just something I thought to be a little noteworthy. Durant leaving in any capacity would surely upset Westbrook to some degree, but nothing would sting greater than seeing him and Harden paired up once again. 

Although it would be fascinating to see Durant and Harden implemented in the famed D’Antoni offense that sent ripple effects through the Association when it was piloted by Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire, it’s not happening. 

I think Durant is going to stay in OKC, sign a two-year deal with a player-option in year No. 2, and reassess his options next summer, in hopes of cashing out big-time, but we know with him it’s not a monetary thing. He admired David West for taking less cash for a shot at a ring with San Antonio, so dollar signs don’t cloud his vision like it may some of his other cohorts.

When or if Durant meets with some teams, there is a great possibility he may be swayed by their pitches. That’s what free agency entails. But at least we know now that the Rockets have a marginal chance of winning the Durant sweepstakes, and Durant is a smart man for this.

 

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