It’s no secret that the New York Knicks will pursue free agent Kevin Durant this summer. Further evidence came when team president Phil Jackson told new acquisition Derrick Rose that he plans to make a push for Durant in free agency, league sources confirmed to ESPN.
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Jackson’s conversation with Rose was first reported by the New York Daily News.
The Knicks project to have at least $30 million in cap space this summer and will have enough money to offer Durant a maximum contract, which starts at $26.4 million in the first season.
But Jackson and the Knicks are a long-shot to land Durant and they will have plenty of competition from teams that can offer Durant a chance to win a title. The Golden State Warriors will make Durant their top target in free agency, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein. Other top teams expected to pursue Durant include the San Antonio Spurs and, of course, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
It is unclear at this point if the Knicks will get a meeting with Durant and Rich Kleiman, his Roc Nation Sports agent.
But acquiring the 27-year-old Rose in a trade may have helped their cause. People familiar with Durant’s thinking told ESPN.com last month that the Knicks would need to upgrade their backcourt to be considered in free agency. They accomplished that on Wednesday in trading for Rose.
League sources say Durant has also told friends that he’s a big fan of Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis, whom he dubbed a “unicorn” last season. Additionally, Durant has a strong relationship with Knicks star Carmelo Anthony.
All of this probably still doesn’t make New York a serious contender for Durant. But Jackson will certainly make a run at him.
Jackson will also look for a center in the offseason to replace Robin Lopez, who was shipped to Chicago in the Rose trade.
Some members of the organization would like to target Bulls center Joakim Noah to step into Lopez’s role, sources say. Noah is close with Rose and also has a good relationship with Anthony.
Another potential option for New York is free-agent center Dwight Howard. The Knicks are one of several teams that Howard would consider in free agency, league sources say, but their interest in Howard is unclear at this point.