NEW YORK -- For the most part, Kevin Durant has escaped the cauldron that is free-agency speculation and rumoring. His pending decision this summer is something that is casting a significant shadow over the league. But more than halfway through the season, he's been asked fewer than 10 questions about it.
At media day in September, he was asked one. In Houston, he was asked two that were about the Rockets and if he noticed them making moves. He responded to a rumor circulated by ESPN's Stephen A. Smith in October. And, of course, he answered a couple when he returned to his hometown of Washington, D.C., in November. That's basically it.
That changed on Tuesday morning following the Thunder's shootaround at Madison Square Garden. Durant was asked five different direct free-agency questions, and a couple of backdoor ones. ("What do you think of this Knicks roster?") Teammate Russell Westbrook was even asked about Durant's future. "Uh, no, we don't talk about it," Westbrook said when asked if he and Durant had discussed his free agency.
Unlike past free-agency buildups, there has been little-to-no buzz circulating around Durant. That's largely due to the lack of information and gossip leaking out, which Durant did his best to get in front of over the summer, saying that unless it comes from him, his agent Rich Kleiman or his manager Charlie Bell, then it's not true.
Carmelo Anthony was asked about why he thinks Durant's avoided the daily inquiries, and Anthony told reporters on Monday, "The good thing is he’s out in Oklahoma City where he don’t have to worry about all of this, 15, 20 guys and girls, media people at practice. They only have got to worry about a couple of people. But I don’t think he’s dealing with that at this point."
So with him in New York, naturally Durant got a taste of it. Here's a transcript of the pertinent questions he was asked on Tuesday:
Obviously your free agency is a big topic around here. I was wondering if there was any more clarity in terms of what you want, or what’s important to you in that process?
Durant: I’m just really, to be honest with you, I haven’t sat down and thought about it. The season moves along so quickly. And every time I get alone, it’s either on the plane or in the city thinking about the game the next day. So, of course I can’t totally just say I haven’t thought about it at all. But I haven’t sat down and really put a lot of time into what I’m looking for. Just focusing on my teammates, focusing on the season and how I can be better as a player, as a leader. Everything else comes after that and it comes after the season.
In today’s world with social media, you have been able to get a lot of endorsements playing in a small market. Is there a difference between small market and big markets for players?
Durant: It’s not different. There’s so many games on TV nowadays. Like you said, social media gives the game and different players exposure no matter where you are. It really doesn’t matter. To be honest, it’s never been about that for me. It’s been about the game and being a basketball player first.
From afar, it seems like you and Russ have a great connection on the court and as friends. Is that going to play a role in your decision for your future and how tough would it be to think about even leaving him?
Durant: Like I said, I haven’t really thought about that much. I’m just enjoying every single moment. I told myself that before the year. It’s easy for me to kind of stray off path and think about the future, but I just try to preach every day, pray to myself when I walk on the court, when I get out the bed, just stay in the moment, enjoy the moment.
Because this stuff goes past quick. It’s my ninth season in the league and I can remember my first game in Madison Square Garden like it was yesterday. So I just try to stay in the moment and we’ll worry about that stuff when I get there, man. I know that’s [what] people want to hear, the information, want to get it out and talk about everything right now. But to be honest, man, I’m just trying to stay in the moment and enjoy where I am. I’ll tell you everything you need to know when that time comes.
Why do people link you with New York so much?
Durant: They link everybody with New York City. One of the greatest cities in the world. They link everybody with this city. So, it’s not a bad thing. It’s a great city. It’s a great place to visit, great place to live, I’m sure. But they link everybody, it’s not just me.
It seems like every time you say something good about the city or the Garden, fans go crazy. Does that feel good to feel wanted?
Durant: Yeah, I spent some nice time up here coming up and playing basketball in New York City. One of the most memorable times in my life was coming up here and playing outside, getting the pure love of the game up here. I’m always going to remember that the rest of my life, I’m going to tell my kids about that when I get older. That’s something I’ll always remember.
I’m coming from Maryland, so we know how big basketball is up here. So it’s nothing new to me. So of course I enjoy playing here. Then playing in the Garden. Every movie you watch they had a scene where they were playing basketball in the Garden, everything reverts back to being in the Garden, whether it’s musicians, basketball players, wherever. So to play here is just a blessing.