Will Durant leave?
This is what he told The Undefeated’s Marc Spears on Monday night: “We will figure it out. I will talk to my agent, my best friend and my dad. Just talk to those three guys and get some advice from other people. But for the most part, I will talk to them in the next couple of weeks. I don’t even know where my mind is right now.”
The Rockets hope it’s with them.
Recruiting free agents haven’t gone well for Houston, from missing out on Chris Bosh and LaMarcus Aldridge the last couple of years. Dwight Howard did sign with Houston with the goal of winning a championship with James Harden.
The farthest the duo got was the Western finals in 2014-15 and we all know what happened this past season, a first-round exit, losing in five games to the Warriors.
But what chances do the Rockets really have in getting Durant?
It starts with Harden. He played three seasons with Durant and, outside of OKC, is the only superstar former teammate on a team Durant could consider. Harden maintains a good relationship with Durant and it’s clear he will be in charge of the recruiting pitch.
You could say that Durant already has a teammate like Harden in Russell Westbrook; somebody who can dominate the ball. But where things change for the Rockets is new coach Mike D’Antoni.
D'Antoni gives the Rockets a dynamic offensive mind where passing the ball, pushing the pace, utilizing pick-and-rolls and shooting 3-pointers equates to more people touching the ball. The emphasis is on offense, offense, offense.
Building a staff around D’Antoni means finding someone to coach the defense and the Rockets are hopeful Jeff Bzdelik comes aboard to do that.
More importantly, Rex Kalamian, the assistant coach in Toronto is also being courted according to multiple sources, to join the Rockets staff. Kalamian was an assistant coach with OKC from 2009-to-2015 having coached both Durant and Harden. Harden has a good relationship with Kalamian, who is a well-respected offensive coach.
The intangibles for Durant could almost be as big. Playing in Texas, with no state income tax, a bigger local market in comparison to Oklahoma City and the international opportunities he doesn’t have now.
The Rockets are one of the biggest draws in China, thanks to the newly elected Hall of Famer Yao Ming, who played with the Rockets and raised their international profile.
Durant knows about playing in Texas and all that it entails, having spent one season at the University of Texas in Austin.
Of course, Durant could sign a short-term deal with OKC and do all this again in a year or so. But for a franchise like Houston, seeking another superstar to pair with Harden long-term, the goal of winning a title is now.
Can Durant be that player to push Houston to the next level?
He has to sign there first.