This is NBA free agency as written by Aesop. It was reported, soon after Kevin Durant took his talents to Brooklyn, that the Knicks weren’t going to offer Kevin Durant a max contract because of injury concerns. The Knicks would certainly like you to believe that, anyway. Is it true? Maybe. But those grapes are looking sour as hell from here.
It seems at least as likely that this is a post hoc attempt to save face on the part of the Knicks, with their fans, the league, or with themselves. After all, it’s much less humiliating for them if the reason Kevin Durant isn’t a Knick is because they didn’t really want him, rather than him not wanting them.
But either way, it’s an even worse humiliation, because the Knicks never even got the chance to show him how uninterested they were: They never even got a meeting with Durant.
Per multiple reports, Knicks brass were told they were out of the running long before the 6 p.m. formal start of free agency, and wouldn’t receive even the perfunctory meetings Durant’s camp was having with teams in New York. Even Ramona Shelburne’s initial report—notice her careful language: the Knicks “were not prepared” to offer the max, which is different than saying they did not offer the max, because, apparently, they didn’t even get the chance to not offer it—noted that Knicks officials were in Los Angeles. It’s extremely convenient for the Knicks to insist they would have taken a stand when it’s unfalsifiable. (And a little less than believable considering the big contracts they’ve shelled out in the recent past to players with worrying injury histories.)
It’s a brutal indictment of the state of the Knicks, and how they’re seen by players around the league, that for all the cap space they cleared and all their confident nodding and winking toward reports that they’d be major players in free agency, that their two top targets didn’t even wait for free agency to officially begin before eliminating them as contenders, and that Durant and Kyrie Irving didn’t even give the Knicks a chance to argue their case. Because their case is just that weak. It’s with that in mind that the Knicks, in an unprecedentedly pathetic move, put out a statement acknowledging what a disappointment they are to their fans.
Look, no one knows how this is going to go. Maybe the Nets end up regretting this. Maybe the role players the Knicks signed instead help push the franchise toward something better. Maybe the cap space they still have can be used for valuable players, or to take on bad contracts in exchange for picks that turn them into sustainable contenders. Maybe it’s good that they didn’t sign Kevin Durant. But right now, in the summer of 2019, all that can be said with any uncertainty is that the Knicks are such a tire fire that Kevin Durant didn’t even bother to hear them out.