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NBA AM: Durant Free Agency Watch Begins

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Kevin Durant 2016 Free Agency Speculation Begins

It is an inevitable part of the process these days. NBA superstars headed to free agency aren’t just talking about their future during contract years anymore. Now, in this player-movement obsessed world, the speculation typically begins two summers before the player hits the open market.

With the current collective bargaining agreement discouraging signing early extensions, most elite players understand that testing their value in free agency is the most lucrative option for them financially.

This summer, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and LeBron James were the primary drivers of the free agency frenzy. Anthony and Bosh ultimately elected to re-sign with their original teams, while James bolted Miami to head back “home” to Cleveland.

James’ sentimental decision to rejoin the Cavaliers almost immediately turned the speculation toward reigning MVP Kevin Durant and his future in Oklahoma City.

Durant has two years remaining on his current deal with the Thunder worth $39 million. There are no player or team options and very little chance of the All-Star forward signing an extension, leaving one thing certain – Durant will hit the summer of 2016 as an unrestricted free agent.

Durant grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and James’ decision to return to his roots has fueled speculation that Durant will give his hometown (and emerging) Washington Wizards a strong look in two years.

“I’m going to do what’s best for me,” Durant said, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. “It’s hard to talk about that right now when I’ve got two years left in Oklahoma City. I’m just going to focus on that. I’m not going to make a decision based on what anybody else does. I grew up watching the Bullets/Wizards. I grew up taking the train to that arena, all the time, to watch Georgetown, the Bullets, the Washington Mystics. That whole city is a part of me. It’s in my blood. I love going back home, seeing my family and playing there, but I love Oklahoma City too.”

The Wizards won 44 contests last season, the most in nearly a decade, and reached the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 campaign.  The team has a strong stable of young talent and looks poised to continue rising in the Eastern Conference with the cap room available in 2016 to make a strong run at Durant.

To his credit, Durant is taking the speculation head on and not avoiding the talk as if he’s oblivious to his looming options.

“Look, we going to put it out on tape,” Durant said. “It’s been talked about. Everybody’s asked me about it every time I go on Instagram or Twitter. All my friends ask me about it. So I’m not going to sit here and act like I’m naïve to the fact that people think about that stuff. But I just tell everybody that I’m here in Oklahoma City, [and] I love it here. Who knows what will happen? I never close the door on anything. But I like where I’m at right now, so I can’t answer that question.”

What Durant did answer was his thoughts on James’ decision to leave Miami for Cleveland this summer. The forward felt the move was classy and he respected the decision in its entirety.

“I thought it was well-thought-out. It was classy. It was a great move to do it as a letter,” Durant said. “That was pretty cool. It’s funny seeing guys think about more than just basketball for once. He thought about the city where he comes from, about Northeast Ohio and how he can affect so many of the kids just being there playing basketball. I love that. So many guys get criticized for making the decision that’s best for them, instead of what’s best for everybody else. He’s a guy that did that. You gotta respect that. I applauded him, I texted him and told him congratulations on the decision and told him I was happy for him. As a fan of the game, it’s going to be pretty cool to see him back in Cleveland.”

Durant averaged 32 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the floor this past season with Oklahoma City.

Bulls Rookie McDermott Unfazed by Trade Rumors

Incoming rookie forward Doug McDermott has already been traded once, a draft night deal sending him from the Denver Nuggets to the Chicago Bulls, so the current rumors aren’t impacting how he’s getting ready for the season.

McDermott, the No. 11 overall pick in the 2014 draft, has been mentioned in trade rumors revolving around All-Star forward Kevin Love this summer.

While no deal is imminent the Bulls are reportedly willing to package forwards Taj Gibson, McDermott and other assets to acquire Love, who is reportedly unhappy with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

For his part, McDermott is preparing for the season like he’ll be in a Bulls uniform at the start of training camp and he also hasn’t asked front office officials to confirm his standing with the franchise.

“I didn’t really pay attention to it much,’’ McDermott said of the trade rumors, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times. “I think rumors happen a lot. There have been a lot this offseason, so you’ve just got to stay patient.

“You can’t really read into that stuff. I’m just focused on what I can do to become better. To be honest, I get asked about it; I don’t really ask anyone. I try to stay off Twitter, and a lot of people ask me or text me through my friends. But I just ignore it. Whatever happens, happens.”

McDermott averaged 18 points per game on 44 percent shooting in four summer league games in Las Vegas this month. The forward amassed 3,150 career points throughout the course of his collegiate career at Creighton University.

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About Lang Greene

Lang Greene

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last seven seasons