The new NBA season hasn’t even started yet, and already predictions for the 2016 offseason have one of the league’s top superstars changing teams as a free agent — and headed to one of the top glamor franchises in the National Basketball Association. But the NBA star himself claims the that the prediction is not true.
That superstar is 27-year-old Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Last week, ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith claimed that if Durant did not elect to renew his contract with Oklahoma City, he would head west to Los Angeles.
“I’m hearing that if Kevin Durant doesn’t stay in Oklahoma City, L.A. is his primary objective and landing spot as opposed to South Beach or even his home of Washington, D.C., ” the bellicose TV personality announced.
Durant was emphatic in denying Smith’s predictions for his 2016 free agent fate.
“I don’t talk to Stephen A. Smith at all,” Durant said on Friday, according to an ESPN.com report. “Nobody in my family, my friends — they don’t talk to Stephen A Smith. So he’s lying.”
But Smith’s claim was backed up by another media personality, Colin Cowherd, who said that there was “some truth” to the prediction that Durant would end up with the Lakers after the 2015-2016 NBA season.
Durant, of course, did not flatly deny that he would sign with the Lakers — he simply said that Smith was fabricating his story.
“Like I said before, I have people who I talk to about everything, and I know for a fact they didn’t talk to him, so he’s making up stories,” Durant said.
On its face, the prediction seems improbable, because the Lakers are set to lose their franchise player, future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, who has indicated that he will retire in 2016.
But according to a report by Fox Sports, Durant may be excited by the Lakers core of young talent who, NBA experts say, could lead the faltering franchise back to contention after missing the playoffs for two straight years. In fact, the Lakers have won only 48 games in the previous two seasons combined.
“The Lakers have tantalizing young talent with D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson,” Fox Sports reported on its online site. “The Lakers have a rich tradition of winning, and someone has to take the torch from Bryant. Durant is the type of player Bryant would have no choice but to accept and respect. The two have played together on the 2008 and 2012 Olympics squads and supposedly are fond of each other.”
Also, despite Durant’s rebuke, an indignant Stephen A. Smith stood by his prediction on Durant’s 2016 free agent destination.
“I said I HEARD from folks I know — in a league I’ve been covering for 19 years — that if he were to leave OKC as a free agent, these are the cities I was told he was considering. OKC. LA. Miami. DC. NY,” Smith wrote on his Twitter account. “I stand by it all. And that is that. His assertion that I was lying is not only FALSE, but totally uncalled for.”
Smith reiterated that he did not speak to Durant or any of his close representatives, but had simply heard rumors, which were the basis of his prediction.
Drafted second overall in 2007 out of the University of Texas by the Seattle Supersonics, who moved to Oklahoma City after Durant’s rookie season. Durant missed all but 27 games of last season with an injury. But with a healthy Durant in 2015 and 2016, the Thunder are listed in the predictions of most NBA experts as serious title contenders.
[Images: Kevin C. Cox / Brett Deering / Robin Marchant / Getty Images]