OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kevin Durant shot down a circulating rumor Tuesday that the Oklahoma City Thunder are operating with a Finals-or-bust ultimatum in relation to his future free agency.
"To me, it doesn’t [make sense]," Durant said of placing an ultimatum on the team. "You put too much pressure on everybody if you say something like that. Especially my teammates and the organization. They don't deserve that. So I never said that, I never thought that.
"Like I said, I can't control rumors from people who sit behind their desk every day and think of stuff to say. I'm worrying about coming out here every day and staying healthy and trying to battle against the best players in the world while rumors are getting written up about whatever, and I have no control over it. That's their job, and my job is to play ball. So I never said that."
The origin of the report came from Sirius XM Radio host and New Orleans Pelicans play-by-play broadcaster Joel Meyers saying if the Thunder don't make the NBA Finals this season, Durant will leave in free agency.
"I made some calls over the weekend," Meyers said. "If they don't, I'm told if they don't at least get to the NBA Finals, Durant's gone. Simple as that. And to the point where he may want his own team."
The rumor is one of many increasing free-agency ripples around Durant, after he spent the majority of the season escaping the churning rumor mill.
"There have been a lot of rumors out there," Durant said. "I wouldn't say it's been totally quiet, but it's been cool, it's been different. I was expecting a lot, every city I go to, everybody to ask me questions, but it's been pretty quiet. Once July hits that's when everybody will care. They're just worried about the season. There's a lot of stuff going on. A lot of great players and teams playing well this year, so I'm not the focus."
Last summer at USA Basketball, Durant made it clear his circle is very tight and unless something was coming from him, his agent, his manager or the team's PR director, to ignore it. And Tuesday, he reiterated that.
"If it didn’t come from me or anybody I know, like I said in the summertime, I don’t know where it came from," Durant said. "Everybody makes up rumors around this time of year and everyone wants clicks for their stories, so that’s a part of it. I have nothing to do with that. I can’t control it. I’m just focused on playing better each and every game."
The idea that it's title-or-bust -- or in this case, Finals-or-bust -- is a pretty shortsighted one, because with all the variables that go into the postseason, placing that much significance on an isolated series overlooks the importance of both the future and the past in the decision. As Durant knows all too well, injuries can derail an otherwise promising situation. Like he said himself, that type of mindset doesn't make sense.
Obviously the better the Thunder do in the playoffs the better they make their case to Durant to re-sign in Oklahoma City, but they've also been making a pretty strong case the past seven seasons. The Thunder have sustained their status as a contender, with uncontrollable variables -- i.e., injuries -- being the biggest roadblock during that time.
There has been no championship, and that's the topping on the cake. Without a title, the door remains open for a wandering eye.
The closer July 1 gets, the more Durant's decision will come into focus. There are a lot of options available to him, with probably the most pragmatic being to sign a one-year deal and to delay this circus one more year. (The thinking: With the spiking salary cap coupled with the fact Durant would hit 10 years of service, making him eligible for a 35 percent max contract, he'd be looking at a difference of roughly $85 million.)
For Durant, he's prepared for these types of stories, and he wasn't bothered Tuesday by having to answer the questions that come along with them. He calmly stood and took in each one, and he gave a strong, thoughtful response one-by-one. He's not searching out the drama; he just knows it'll find him.
"I come in here and I hear it a lot. I may turn on the TV here and there and then I see it, go on social media and you see it all the time," Durant said. "It's hard to get away from it. But my family and my friends do a good job of shielding me away from that stuff, and I just try to take it with a grain of salt and move on and know it's a part of the business and know it's a part of this game."