The Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and incumbent Oklahoma City Thunder are the first three known teams to secure face-to-face meetings with free agent-to-be Kevin Durant, starting next weekend, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN that the list of teams that get to pitch Durant directly will grow before NBA free agency officially commences July 1 at 12:01 a.m. ET, but the list of confirmed suitors for now features the Thunder and their two main rivals in the Western Conference.
The Warriors and Spurs, sources say, are both already planning to load a plane full of key organizational figures — including Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson for Golden State, and Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan for San Antonio — to fly to an undisclosed location once free-agency season starts to try to lure Durant away from the only franchise he has ever played for.
The Warriors would have to relinquish a number of looming free agents, including Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli, and at least one more significant contract — such as Andrew Bogut or Andre Iguodala — to create sufficient salary-cap space to sign Durant. But as ESPN reported earlier this week, Golden State is “all-in” on a Durant pursuit.
“All I can say is I will be very aggressive,” Warriors owner Joe Lacob vowed on his way out of Oracle Arena after Game 7.
Other teams hopeful of getting their own opportunity to make a recruiting pitch to 2016’s most coveted free agent but whose status is not yet known include the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers.
The Houston Rockets have long planned to chase Durant in free agency, but when Durant and Rockets star James Harden were spotted spending time together earlier this month, sources said the Rockets are not expected to get serious consideration as a destination from Durant.
Sources say Durant’s hometown Washington Wizards are likewise pessimistic about their chances of emerging as a real factor in the Durant sweepstakes, despite the recent hiring of former Thunder coach Scott Brooks.