For most of the 2018-19 NBA season, it was heavily rumored that Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant would be leaving their respective teams to sign for the New York Knicks. However, reports in the weeks immediately leading up to the start of free agency on Sunday suggested that both superstars were leaning toward joining the Brooklyn Nets. Nonetheless, the Knicks remained in firm contention all the way until the Nets agreed to sign Irving and Durant. But why did Durant, in particular, decide against signing with the Knicks?
On Monday’s edition of First Take, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith explained that the Knicks had supposedly approached Durant’s former team, the Golden State Warriors, asking the 30-year-old forward about who he wanted to play for if he would be moving to New York. As quoted by NESN, Smith recalled that the Knicks suggested they could sign former Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker in the event Irving would choose to leave the Boston Celtics for Brooklyn. This, he added, apparently did not impress Durant, who chose instead to join Irving at the Nets.
“What did KD say? ‘Nope. No can do,’” Smith said. “He was only interested in playing with one dude, and that was Kyrie Irving, because they’re tight.”
Meanwhile, Walker agreed to sign a four year, $142 million contract with the Celtics, where he is expected to replace Irving’s contributions at the point guard position.
The Golden State Warriors issued a statement Monday thanking Kevin Durant and announcing that no player will ever wear No. 35 for the team again.https://t.co/bg10a3ii06— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 2, 2019
Smith’s breakdown of why Kevin Durant reportedly turned down the New York Knicks came one day after he appeared on ESPN’s The Jump and angrily called out his hometown team for missing out on some of the NBA’s top free agents. According to NJ.com, Smith accused Knicks management of telling ESPN that the team won’t offer Durant a maximum contract, calling this a “bush league” move and a “James Dolan caliber mistake,” in reference to the long-time Knicks owner.
“In the end, you’re the New York Knicks, and not only did you lose out, but you lost out to Brooklyn,” Smith continued.
“Then what did you do? You sit up there and you send [ESPN NBA insiders] Ramona [Shelburne] and [Adrian Wojnarowski] information that we weren’t going to give him the max anyway? How stupid can you be? … it’s a joke they would put that out there.”
Despite all the hubbub surrounding his free agency decision, there’s a good chance that Brooklyn fans will have to wait until next year for Durant’s debut with the Nets. As noted by USA Today, the former Warriors forward is likely to miss the entire 2019-20 campaign as he recovers from the torn Achilles tendon he suffered in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals, where Golden State lost in six games to the Toronto Raptors.