Kevin Durant was still digesting Oklahoma City’s Western Conference finals defeat when the simmering subject of his free agent future reached full boiling point.
“I’m just embracing my team-mates and just reflecting on the season,” Durant said on Monday night after the Golden State Warriors rallied to eliminate the Thunder — who had led the best-of-seven series three games to one.
“I’ll think about that stuff, I don’t know when. But we just lost an hour ago, 30 minutes ago, so I don’t know.”
Durant, the 27-year-old former NBA Most Valuable Player, will be the most coveted prize of the free agency period that starts on July 1.
Western Conference rivals Golden State and San Antonio — who fell to the Thunder in the second round of the playoffs — are potential suitors.
They can offer a maximum contract worth $25.9 million or a maximum deal worth $111 million over four years.
The Thunder can offer $149 million over five years to keep their star, or he could opt to return to Oklahoma City for one more year, before re-entering the free agency pool in 2017 — when the salary cap will increase again and thus further raise his salary expectations.
Durant’s impending free agency was a hot topic even before the season began, with Washington Wizards fans hoping his Washington-area roots could prompt him to move East.
Durant, who has spent his entire NBA career with the same club, didn’t sound like a player looking for a way out after Oklahoma City’s 55-win season.
He has a superstar team-mate in Russell Westbrook, and together they led the Thunder past the 67-win Spurs and within a hair’s breadth of beating the 73-win Warriors.
Oklahoma City’s playoff performance, after an erratic regular season, amply demonstrated the development of first-year coach Billy Donovan and such emerging players as Steven Adams and Dion Waiters.
“When we were losing eight out of 12, we were getting criticized for not being where other teams were,” Durant said. “But I thought we peaked at the right time and got better at the right time. We laid it all out there. Everybody left their soul out on the court. We have no regrets.”