By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
Kevin Durant and Sam Presti greeted each other with a big hug just outside the doors to Chesapeake Energy Arena this morning and right under Durant’s photo, which remains with those of his current teammates above the entrances to the arena.
By all accounts Durant and his photo will almost surely greet Thunder fans this fall too.
Durant, his childhood friend and manager Charlie Bell and Durant’s agent Rich Kleiman sat down with Presti, Thunder assistant GM Troy Weaver, team chairman Clay Bennett and others in the organization for several hours today.
The Thunder are also expected to get another meeting with Durant after he visits with representatives from the Warriors, Clippers, Spurs, Celtics and Heat this weekend in the New York City area.
By the time that’s all said and done Durant is expected to re-sign with OKC for at least next season and perhaps beyond.
A longtime friend of Durant’s told ESPN’s Marc Spears “his decision is 90 percent made. It would take an amazing sales pitch to change it,” and pull Durant out of Oklahoma City.
Another KD pal told Spears, “it’s going to take some sweet talking to get him to pass up all the money he can get by staying in OKC.”
To really capitalize on the cash Durant would need to sign a so-called 1+1 deal with a player option for the second year. He would then opt out and re-sign a new 5-year contract with OKC. That way he would stand to make almost $100 million more than by signing a 4-year deal with another team now. If he did a 1+1 with another team that team would have to clear enough salary cap space to fit Durant in this coming season and then again next season.
That’s starting to become a lot of hoops to jump through and a lot of uncertainty to overcome. The Thunder wouldn’t have to clear cap space because league rules allow a team re-signing its own free agent to go over the salary cap to do so.
Though Durant and his team walked into The Peake through the front doors, they didn’t leave that way and no one from either side was available to comment about the discussions inside the arena.
The only things we know for sure are that money and contracts were not discussed. League rules prohibit that sort of discussion before the free agency period begins (at 11:01pm Oklahoma time).
This discussion today was for Thunder management to lay out their plans for future and to underscore the strength and youth and flexibility of the Thunder’s current roster. Durant probably already knows most of this. He and Presti talk frequently and have ever since Presti made Durant the 2nd overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft.
They have developed a mutual trust over the years and Durant has seen even some of Presti’s riskier moves pay off.
Steven Adams is quickly developing into an All-Star type center. He came as a result of the James Harden trade.
Billy Donovan, who was brought on to replace the very popular Scott Brooks, quickly developed a strong relationship with Durant and has shown he’s more than capable of handling big time coaching duties.
Serge Ibaka, who struggled to adapt his game this past season, was exchanged for three players including Durant favorite Victor Oladipo. And today word came in that the Thunder may be working on bring in 4-time All-Star Al Horford.
The Thunder have been to four Western Conference Finals and one NBA Finals in the last six years. The roster is now younger and by most accounts better than it’s ever been.
So yeah it’s going to take a heck of a sales pitch to get Durant away from Oklahoma City especially by next season. The other teams he’s meeting with realize that and most of them are thought to be angling toward 2017 with the strong belief that Durant re-signs with OKC for the short term and then may be more willing to listen to what other teams over to offer this time next year.
But Durant, who’s been known to go against conventional wisdom before, may decide he’d just as soon end all the talk and commit long-term to OKC.
One way or the other Durant is expected to reach a decision next week before he flies out of the country for a promotional tour on July 9th. The earliest he can sign a new contract is 12:01am Eastern time July 7th.
Between now and then we’ll update the website with all the latest information and be sure to monitor our Twitter feed page for live updates.