The Kevin Durant rumors continue to persist. Just two weeks ago, Ethan laid out a very reasonable view on those talks in his piece on the KD-Michael Beasley connection. As the season drifts ever so close to it's end, the chatter and speculation seems to be getting even heavier.
James Harden has officially offered up his services in the forthcoming wooing of Durant, according to ESPN, as the Rockets will prepare to hand out roses, climb up the trellis at midnight, fit KD with a golden sneaker-- whatever it takes. ESPN's Calvin Watkins dropped the following nugget:
"The front office has talked to Harden about recruiting, and Harden is ready to play his part.
"'In order to put yourself as an elite team, you always got to have talent, right?' Harden said, while not addressing Durant specifically. 'You always got to find ways to get better and improve, that's any team.'
"Harden and and Durant have a strong relationship, professionally and personally. In the last meeting between the Rockets and the Thunder on March 22nd, Harden hugged Durant's mother, Wanda Pratt, at midcourt before the game. Harden still has ties to OKC, where he owns a home, and his brother owns a barber shop in the midtown section of the city."
ESPN is not the only major media outlet floating KD to Houston as a possibility this offseason, as Fox Sports also believes James Harden will play a significant role in the Durant Sweepstakes.
"Having Harden sell the franchise is huge. He can recruit Durant as aggressively as he wants... If Harden constantly buzzes in Durant's ear, it could very well be enough to land an official meeting with Rockets management, and that's all the team can ask for.
Sure, they've been one of the biggest disappointments in the league, but with Durant on board, they'd have two top-5 players and an owner who's more than willing to exceed the luxury tax threshold with his team competing for a championship. The same can't be said about the Thunder."
As Rockets fans, we've admittedly become almost numb to these types of rumors, especially in the Daryl Morey era. The GM's reputation for eyelash-batting, superstar love and doing whatever is in his power to add them to his team has led to the Rockets being tied to near every free agent or would-be possibility over the last several years, from LeBron James, to Chris Bosh, to Dwight Howard, to Kevin Durant.
Obviously, Howard's the only one of those that actually happened, and there are plenty of developments sure to take place between now and free agency season.
The Thunder still have a playoff run out of the third seed to take, and the results of that run will likely play a major part in Durant's decision. A finals appearance, and he likely stays. A first or second round exit, and he's likely to go. Something in between, and it's anyone's guess.
On the Houston side, there's the D-12 situation still to be settled. Howard is almost certainly opting out and will be seeking a major deal, likely the max. The Rockets want him back, but not for that type of cheddar. If Howard goes, and with the salary cap slated to rise, the Rockets can easily offer Durant the max, with the flexibility left to still snag a few secondary upgrades to the roster.
If the market for Howard after a down year is quiet and Morey convinces Dwight to stay, it'll be for a good chunk less than the max, and the Rockets would still have the cap space to chase Durant anyway. It's not a bad situation to be in.
But going back to what Ethan said and also using recent Rockets' history as a barometer, is it likely the Rockets land Durant? No, it's not. But it's certainly possible. And it's definitely in the realms of discussion. The idea has progressed beyond talk among Rockets fans and on Rockets fan sites and moved into the consciousness of the major media players.
And that's because it does make sense, at least from an observer's perspective. And that's something to look forward to as we look to shake off the funk of this otherwise highly disappointing season of Rockets basketball.