Kevin Durant never wanted to go to the New York Knicks
For several months leading up to free agency in 2019, almost every rumor you read indicated that superstar Kevin Durant was headed to the New York Knicks.
Of course, that never happened. Durant ended up joining forces with Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn. Speaking to JJ Redick on The Old Man and the Three podcast this week, Durant explained his decision-making process for switching teams from Golden State, saying he never actually considered going to the Knicks.
“I never planned on going to the Knicks,” Durant said. “That was just … the media put that out there.”
The 4-time scoring champ admitted he wanted to live in New York, but made it clear that he didn’t want all of the added spotlight that came with playing for the Knicks in Madison Square Garden. He found the Nets an appealing alternative as early as February 2019.
“I didn’t want to be the savior of the Knicks or New York,” Durant said. “I didn’t care about being the king of New York. That never really moved me. I didn’t care about being on Broadway. I just wanted to play ball and go to the crib and chill. And that’s what Brooklyn embodied.”
Durant tore his ACL in the 2019 NBA Finals, which many believed change the course of history, perhaps leading him to sign with Brooklyn who employed one of his trainers and were better suited than the Knicks to compete while he rehabbed for an entire season.
After listening to Durant talk about his decision, it is pretty clear the Knicks weren’t ever in strong consideration, even before he suffered the devastating injury.
“Brooklyn was everything I’m about,” Durant said. “Chill, on the low, all black everything, we quiet, just focus on basketball. There’s no show when you come to our games. There’s no Madison Square Mecca, all of that shit. We just going to hoop and build something new over in Brooklyn … I felt that way around February leading up until March , and then once free agency hit, it was time.”
Around the time Durant says he was first considering going to Brooklyn, the Knicks traded Kristaps Porzingis in a move designed to clear up cap space in order to sign the former MVP and another star. New York attached the contracts of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee to Porzingis in making a deal that netted them two first round picks, Dennis Smith Jr., and expiring contracts.
The Knicks were also concerned with the long-term health of the young Unicorn who was due for a new contract as a restricted free agent the following summer. Porzingis told the team in a meeting preceding the trade that he wanted to be traded. That said, the motivation behind the trade and attaching two contracts to depress the returning value was clearly bolstered by the allure of freeing up cap space.
New York ended up using their added cap space in 2019 to sign Julius Randle and several veterans on short-term deals. They started the following season 4-18 before firing head coach David Fizdale. Team president Steve Mills, who orchestrated the Porzingis trade, was eventually replaced by Leon Rose.