Kevin Durant
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

If the New York Knicks are serious about landing Kevin Durant in free agency, they should just make the following pitch to him and his team.

Josh Benjamin

Kevin Durant is at the top of the New York Knicks’ free agency wish list, and management has to go above and beyond to sign him.

That’s just the reality of the situation. New York has room for two max contracts and Durant’s strong scoring would be a great fit for the Knicks. After all, the narrative has been there all season: Durant is coming to the Knicks. No questions asked.

The speculation was fueled Wednesday evening when Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report dropped a new twist. Appearing on Fox Sports’ The Herd With Colin Cowherd, Bucher reported Durant is buying property in New York and has his home in the Bay Area up for sale.

OK, great! This is all fine and dandy but doesn’t guarantee the Knicks as the winners of the Durant free agency sweepstakes. Keep in mind, SNY reported earlier this month the Brooklyn Nets are also interested. Thus, buying a home in New York doesn’t mean Durant will don the blue and orange.

However, if Steve Mills and Scott Perry present a very specific pitch, the odds of landing Durant will immediately go up.

King of New York

First things first, basketball fans. Durant has no reason to re-sign with the Golden State Warriors. Despite his calf injury, he’s on the cusp of winning a third consecutive championship. However, despite being the NBA Finals MVP for both of his title wins, the Warriors will never be his team. No, Golden State is Steph Curry’s team, and always will be, even if Durant wins ten more rings with them.

Enter New York. Thanks to the Kristaps Porzingis trade, the Knicks need a face of the franchise—a leader.

And this is perfect because it’s the next natural step of his NBA career. He was the dynamic upstart rookie with the Seattle SuperSonics and then helped put the Oklahoma City Thunder on the map with Russell Westbrook by his side. With the Warriors, he established himself as one who could take over a championship team and bring home the gold.

In New York, however, Durant would follow the same route LeBron James is hoping to with the Los Angeles Lakers. He would not only become the default alpha dog with the Knicks but also go down in history as the one who saved the franchise and made them a contender again.

The Pitch

This means when it comes to pitching Kevin Durant, Perry and Mills have little to no margin for error. Between New York’s history of losing and owner James Dolan’s reputation, the Knicks are a hard sell.

Allow me to set the scene. It’s June 30 and the Knicks brass are getting ready to meet with Durant and his agent, Rich Kleiman. Most important of all, Dolan is not part of this meeting. It has to be Perry and Mills running it. As was just mentioned, there is no room for error in this meeting. Even the smallest gaffe by anyone could kill a deal faster than the Terminator does civilians.

Here’s the rub. Perry and Mills will be contributing minimally in this meeting. Rather, the man talking the most will be head coach David Fizdale, whose reputation as a player’s coach speaks for itself.

In this case, Fizdale doesn’t have to do too much. He’ll talk up Mitchell Robinson and his continued improvement as a young, dominant center. Allonzo Trier’s offensive abilities are raw but have a high ceiling. The team’s recent first-round draft pick, let’s say RJ Barrett in this case, provides NBA-ready scoring help. Perry and Fizdale then mention Durant isn’t the team’s only free agency target, but he is indeed their first priority.


New York Knicks

Closing the Deal

Fast forward to that evening, and Perry and Mills take Durant and Kleiman out to dinner at Smith & Wollensky. For those unaware, this is one of the best steakhouses in New York City and a perfect place to have a business meeting of this nature.

Here, ladies and gentlemen, is where the Knicks go into full wine and dine mode. They list the perks and advantages of living in the New York area. Potential endorsements are brought up. The best part, says Mills, is it’s easy to be a celebrity and yet remain anonymous because there are so many people living here. Now, it’s Perry’s turn.

“Kevin,” he says, “I’m not going to beat around the bush. We’d love to have you on our team and are willing to go above and beyond to sign you. We’re limited in what we can offer you contractually, but we hope you’ll come and play for us. We really think you’ll bring something special to our locker room.”

“OK,” says Kleiman. “That’s great, but we have meetings with other teams too. How are their pitches going to be any different from what you just said?”

“Well,” Perry says with a smile, “We have other free agents on our radar. How would you like to pick who gets paid alongside you?”

There’s the kill shot, folks. The Knicks need to make very clear, though Perry and Mills run the front office, Kevin Durant’s input is valued on every level.

Final Thoughts

The heart of the matter is, despite the Knicks struggling for nearly two decades, New York is a basketball city. So many great players from Kenny Smith to Kemba Walker got started here, and Kevin Durant signing with the team just makes sense.

Which means when it comes time to make their pitch, the Knicks absolutely must blow Durant away. If New York doesn’t get top free agents this summer, it could be a long time before it does again.

The future of New York basketball could rest on this deal becoming a reality. If Perry and Mills use this very pitch, there could be hope yet.

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