NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — When you’re desperate you’ll try anything.
That could be how the latest report about the Knicks’ offseason pursuit of free agent-to-be Kevin Durant is interpreted.
According to the New York Post, the Knicks are fully prepared to go after Durant with one of their two max salary slots once the free agency negotiation period begins on June 30. This despite the fact that Durant may not be able to play for a good portion — or perhaps all — of next season due to a torn Achilles’ tendon.
Durant had surgery on Wednesday in New York and posted on Instagram a picture of himself in the hospital and wrote in part: “My road back starts now!”
Durant suffered the injury Sunday night during the early stages of the second quarter of Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors. The Golden State Warriors’ power forward had missed the previous month of playoff action due to a calf injury and it’s likely he returned to the court only because his team was facing a 3-1 deficit in the best-of-seven series.
The downtrodden Knicks and their long-suffering fans have been waiting for the 2019 offseason for a very long time. Initially, the reported plan was to use the top pick in the draft to select Duke superstar Zion Williamson and then add max free agents like Durant and perhaps Kyrie Irving to a roster with some young talent in an attempt to hasten the pursuit of the team’s first championship since 1973.
Of course, the pingpong balls at the draft lottery didn’t work out in the league-worst Knicks’ favor — they ended up at No. 3 overall, a pick they are expected to use on Duke’s RJ Barrett — and now the centerpiece of their offseason strategy is staring at an injury that could alter the remainder of his NBA career.
Generally, the most severe forms of Achilles’ injuries take eight to 12 months to recover.
Still, the Post reported Wednesday the Knicks are fully intent to pursue the 30-year-old Durant, despite his injury being especially hard to recover from for big man. Durant, who stands 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds, is a 10-time All-Star and two-time NBA Finals MVP who is averaging 27 points and 7.1 rebounds during his 11-year career.
The report seems to justify the wide belief that Durant has been the Knicks’ Plan A all along. Repeated reports have suggested putting a player like Irving or Kawhi Leonard next Durant, or perhaps trading for New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis and pairing him with Durant, a maneuver that would immediately give New York arguably the most formidable 1-2 combination in the NBA.
Durant has until June 29 to decide if he will opt out of the final year of his contract. If he decides to remain with the Warriors he would receive a guaranteed $31.5 million in 2019-20, even if he doesn’t play a single game. However, ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday morning that would be a “last resort” for Durant.