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Thunder GM giving Kevin Durant space to decide future, credits him for putting team first

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kevin Durant's impending free agency hovered over the Thunder's season from training camp up until their elimination in the Western Conference finals, but general manager Sam Presti credited Durant on Monday with controlling the noise and speculation about his future.

"I also think Kevin deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the way he's handled his affairs, because what it really did was it allowed our team to focus on the season and really made the season we had possible," Presti said. "I thought it was a tremendous example of a franchise player putting the franchise first. I thought it was also a tremendous example of leadership on his part, because we're not able to have that season unless he's handling his affairs the way that he did."

"I thought it was a tremendous example of a franchise player putting the franchise first. I thought it was also a tremendous example of leadership on his part, because we're not able to have that season unless he's handling his affairs the way that he did." Sam Presti, crediting Kevin Durant on how he handled this season

Durant, 27, will become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his nine-year career on July 1 and has virtually the entire league lining up to try and get a meeting with him. Durant said last week that he hasn't put much thought into free agency, and was still digesting the season the Thunder had. Presti said it's important for Durant to take his time to reflect and relax before digging into his decision.

"We'll get an answer from him at the appropriate time," Presti said. "I think it really is important for him to take his time, get away from things. Look, Kevin is a highly, highly intelligent person. He's a mature person. He's a rational person, and he's going to work through the decision in a way that will help him do what he feels is best for him. We'll react accordingly once we have that information, and we'll try to be as prepared as possible."

Virtually every team in the league is lining up to get a meeting with Durant this July, but the Thunder are seen are the apparent front-runners with a strong postseason punctuating that point as they pushed the 73-win Warriors to the brink of elimination. Along with a blossoming young core and a strong first season for coach Billy Donovan, that will all likely be part of the Thunder's pitch to Durant.

Presti, though, said the Thunder have been making their pitch to him for the last nine years.

"We've had a relationship with Kevin in Oklahoma City for eight years, nine with this particular franchise, and we talk to him all the time," he said. "I think when those conversations occur, it's really just a continuation of a dialogue that's been going on for eight or nine years. It's a chance to reflect and recognize that relationship and continue the conversations that we've had on going."

Durant signed an extension with the Thunder in 2010, a five-year max deal with no opt-out clause. Presti was at Durant's doorstep -- literally -- at midnight on July 1 that year with a contract ready to be signed. Asked if that's his plan again, Presti said he hasn't started thinking about that yet.

"All of those things, the actual conversation and things of that nature, that'll take its place naturally," he said. "Again, like we've been with this player for quite a while, and the way I personally choose to look at it is we've got to take a step back and realize how incredible, how fortunate are we that Kevin Durant has been one of the first players to ever wear a Thunder uniform.

"I think we should be really excited about recognizing the relationship, and as I said before, it's a continuation of a dialogue that's been going on for eight, nine years, and it's an opportunity to talk about what the future might hold for us together."