Former teammates Kevin Durant and James Harden are “hanging out” together this week, but the close friends’ brief reunion isn’t expected to have a real impact on Durant’s forthcoming free agency, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN.com that Harden’s Houston Rockets are not a team Durant plans to consider when he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1, despite Harden’s presence there and the Rockets’ long-known intent to try to chase him.
At least one picture of Durant and Harden at a restaurant has circulated this week via Instagram, leading to inevitable speculation about Harden trying to recruit his former Thunder colleague to Houston. But sources insist the visit is nothing out of the ordinary for them, given the players’ long-standing friendship and particularly because Houston, sources say, is not a destination Durant intends to consider.
The league office, furthermore, has historically chosen not to apply NBA tampering rules to players from rival teams who have contact with free agents before July 1, which is the first day teams can legally engage with free agents.
ESPN.com reported after Oklahoma City’s recent elimination in the Western Conference finals that a return for Durant to the Thunder on a two-year max contract, with a player option to return to free agency in the summer of 2017, is widely regarded as the most likely scenario for him in his first foray into free agency.
But Durant is also widely expected to take a handful of face-to-face recruiting meetings with a select group of interested teams, with the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs regarded by many rival executives as the two biggest threats to lure Durant away from the Thunder.
Yet numerous teams, such as the Rockets, are likely to try their luck, regardless of their slim chances. Boston Celtics All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas, for example, revealed to the Boston Globe his fairly determined plans to try to recruit Durant to the Celtics earlier this week.