Kolsky: Why not take pending free agent Kevin Durant at his word?

Presumption, pomp and circumstance: The future of Kevin Durant

This is not a column where I tell you what Kevin Durant is going to do this off-season.

I don’t know Kevin Durant, his mind or his mood. I did not speak to him for this piece, and I won’t pretend to have any inside information.

It’s my strong belief that very few people have any real information on what Durant will do. In fact I don’t think anyone, even he, knows what his ultimate decision will be on where he heads in free agency. That shouldn’t be too controversial, since he said it himself.

“I don’t know. I never know,” Durant told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Logan Murdock. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I don’t think about the future, bro. Like that. Of course, I think about it, but not like, let me make these [plans], let me go ahead and go through the logistics and the details.”

Yet anyone suggesting that KD to the Knicks might be something less than a sure thing is lambasted for naiveté. Bring it on, because if acknowledging alternative scenarios is wrong then I don’t want to be right.

I’m not telling you Durant will be a Warrior come August. I’m telling you I truly don’t know; I do know that declaring one’s self-assured knowledge of the destination for the NBA’s best free agent is a no-lose proposition.

Talking heads know nobody is keeping track — if they say today they have a source putting KD in New York and he ends up in LA, there will be no adverse consequences. If he does go to the Knicks, they can be sure to remind you of the first time they said it.

There are real, sourced reports linking Durant to NYC (ones that, for a start, don’t base their thesis on what “people around the league are saying”). There are also potentially real, understandable reasons for him to want to be in the biggest city in the country.

If you made me handicap my guesswork on where he’ll end up, I’d probably put it around 40% Knicks, 40% Warriors, 20% other. In brief: there’s enough legitimate stuff surrounding the New York rumors that it has to be considered a reasonably likely option. The Warriors remain the best basketball situation and hell, anything is possible.

I will say that I want to believe he’ll stay. Basketball-wise, I don’t especially care — as a Bulls fan, his move is unlikely to change my team’s fate; as a Bay Area radio host and writer, the Warriors will be fascinating either way. But my understanding of Durant would change somewhat if he leaves.

Unless someone gives me compelling reasons to believe they are a liar, I try to take them at their word. KD’s words (or lack thereof) have been a source of great debate and consternation throughout the season, largely because most people seem determined either to ignore or re-interpret them.

Isn’t the much easier route to simply believe what he says? He says he hasn’t decided yet. I have no reason to think that’s a lie, and even if it was, he’d have more than two months to change his mind.

In the aforementioned comments to NBC Bay Area, he also said he wants to separate his free agent decision-making from what he’s doing now: “I don’t even want the business to get in the way of basketball… In the beginning of the season, my whole thing was like… that sh*t has nothing to do with me during the season. That has nothing to do with what we’re doing on the court.”

Isn’t that the most exceedingly reasonable approach? Doesn’t it sound honest? Assuming everything is smoothed over after the early-season tiff with Draymond Green — which it seems to be — there doesn’t seem to be any deleterious effect on the basketball.

He has refuted the body language doctors who diagnose his posture as sure signs of his summertime schemes. He rebuked reporters who took his mid-season silent treatment as proof of some backroom deal that led to the Knicks trading Kristaps Porzingis.

It is of course possible that trust is the naive choice here, that Durant’s protests are nothing but misdirection — after all, what else can he say at this point? Defaulting to that cynical state seems strange, though, when KD has generally been pretty honest with us.

He tells us what he thinks about other players in the league, sometimes even to a player’s face on that player’s podcast. He opined about blog boys and Zion Williamson and literally dozens of other things in his series of chats with Bill Simmons, always seeming honest and open.

He walked us through his free agency thought process when he initially made the decision to come to the Bay Area. Notably, all the things that brought him here should still play in the Warriors’ favor.

Durant told us then he “just wants to hoop,” and his behavior seems to confirm it. The non-basketball requirements of life as an NBA superstar have always apparently annoyed him.

As a general rule, few things seem to bother KD more than having to talk to media and answer questions — unless he deems them good basketball questions. Even when he seems otherwise surly or disinterested, a topic that tickles his baller’s brain gets a spirited response.

He also told us he didn’t care about scoring, that he prefers to play within a team concept. His decision to come here in the first place, to play with a star-studded team where he had to realize he’d never be the only one shining, should have been enough to confirm that.

Yet, people accuse him of moodiness when he doesn’t shoot enough for their taste. Nevermind that the Warriors went 9-2 late in the year with Durant averaging 12.2 shots per game and pouring it in at a 59% clip; if he’s not gunning, he must be leaving.

I choose to simply take him at his word — that he hasn’t decided what he’ll do in July, that he’s playing the sort of team basketball he wants to, that he mostly just wants to hoop in the best possible basketball situation. He’s well within his rights to have changed his priorities, or to change his evaluation of the best situation, but he hasn’t said anything to that effect.

Make no mistake, those who would say his move to the Knicks is a done deal are calling Kevin Durant a liar.

Perhaps it’s more prudent to default to distrust, but it seems like a miserable way to go through life. One might say it’s a clearer indication of misery than frustration at being forced to answer questions from people you don’t like after a tough loss.

I’m not telling you what Kevin Durant is going to do, because I don’t know. I’m telling you I won’t dress him in a Knicks uniform while he’s busy winning a title for the Warriors, and I won’t pretend I know his mind because I watched him play basketball or sat in on a press conference.

More to the point — I won’t call him a leaving liar until he lies and leaves.

Matt Kolsky is a sports media professional (or something like that) and lives with his beautiful wife and an aging Shih Tzu/Schnauser mix in Berkeley. You can hear him on the Bay Area sports radio station 95.7 the Game, 3p-7p most weekdays. You can listen to his podcast, The Toy Department, on iTunes or wherever else fine podcasts are free. You can find him on Twitter @thekolsky to share your personal feelings about this article or any other topic, he will respond to most tweets that do not contain racial slurs.

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