Soon-to-be free agent Kevin Durant will not even consider joining his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate James Harden with the Houston Rockets, according to ESPN's Marc Stein. This is despite Houston reportedly planning to chase him for years, Harden saying on the radio that Durant is his top free-agent target and the two of them spending time together this week.
Former teammates Kevin Durant and James Harden are "hanging out" this week, but the close friends' brief reunion isn't expected to have a real impact on Durant's forthcoming free agency, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN.com that Harden's Houston Rockets are not a team Durant plans to consider when he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1, despite Harden's presence there and the Rockets' long-known intent to chase him.
At least one picture of Durant and Harden at a restaurant has circulated this week via Instagram, leading to inevitable speculation about Harden trying to recruit his former Oklahoma City Thunder colleague to Houston. Sources insist the visit is nothing out of the ordinary for them, given the players' long-standing friendship, and particularly because Houston, sources say, is not a destination Durant intends to consider.
Durant is "widely expected to take a handful of face-to-face recruiting meetings," according to ESPN, but it is unclear which teams are on his list. He said after the Thunder's season ended that he had no interest in going on a recruiting tour because he is "not that type of person." After how Oklahoma City performed in the playoffs, it would be surprising if Durant left.
As for the Rockets, well, let's take a look at what CBS Sports' Matt Moore wrote in his story on Durant backup plans:
I'll include them here, since Durant and Harden are buddies. It makes zero sense for Durant to go there, though. The roster is a mess, the team's chemistry and culture was a joke last year, they hired Mike D'Antoni so their defense is a disaster before they even start, and you can make a very good argument that Harden is not better than Westbrook, though it's clearly close.
I could make a case for Houston -- Harden is there, general manager Daryl Morey has a great track record, players like playing for D'Antoni -- but it sounds like all of that is moot. The Rockets don't give him a better chance to win than the Thunder do, and everything that Durant has said publicly indicates that he still has strong ties to the franchise that drafted him.
It's fun to think about Harden and Durant pushing the pace and averaging an obscene amount of points in Houston. It's does not appear, however, that it was ever particularly realistic.