The San Antonio Spurs have established themselves as one of the favorites to land Kevin Durant, and the recent news of another team expressing doubt in their ability to woo him is promising for the Spurs’ efforts.
A source is telling Britt McHenry of ESPN that the Washington Wizards believe that it is unlikely that they will be able to sign Durant.
The reason the Wizards had been viewed as a viable option for Durant is because they are his hometown team.
Another key factor that was seemingly working in the Wizards’ favor was that they recently named Scott Brooks as their new head coach. Brooks coached Durant in Oklahoma City from 2008-2015.
They reached the NBA finals together in 2012, but lost to the Miami Heat. Brooks has the highest career winning percentage of coaches with 400 or more NBA games coached who have not won a championship.
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The influence of Brooks in Washington always seemed like a bit of a stretch in terms of luring Durant, because if Durant had that type of bond with Brooks, he’d likely still be the coach in Oklahoma City right now.
While one less team for the Spurs to have to worry about is great, the removal of the Wizards from contention also eliminates a key factor that the Spurs could have relied upon.
Durant isn’t prioritizing the opportunity to play in a familiar environment like his hometown. Whether the idea is too daunting for him or just a matter of indifference is debatable, but it directly connects to a crucial detail that San Antonio possesses in all of this.
Durant attended college at the University of Texas. San Antonio is the closest NBA city to Austin. If he enjoyed the area while playing his college ball, then it stands to logic that he’d consider returning to play professional ball in the heart of Texas.
The Wizards are hearing that Durant doesn’t have the strong desire to return home to play basketball, so the strength of familiarity probably won’t be a key detail that the Spurs can lean on to attract Durant.
Their culture of success and selflessness will be their main draw, and the Spurs have to hope that Durant’s ties to the area won’t impede their chances at signing him.
It’s likely that Durant is simply indifferent to it, and the Wizards’ connection to him isn’t enough to ignore the fact that their basketball situation pales in comparison to the roster talent that other teams can boast.
Often players fear the pressure of having to perform consistently in front of a hometown crowd, and steer away from returning home in free agency.
Being an NBA star is difficult enough without the added stress of trying to win in the city in which you were born and raised and where the public has likely been aware of your talent since childhood.
Whether Durant is bothered by that prospect is unknown, but at the very least familiarity is not a powerful determinant for him. The Spurs will use talent and stability to their advantage more than proximity to Austin.