OAKLAND — A lot has changed on the Kevin Durant free-agency landscape but not the Knicks’ interest in signing him, according to people familiar with the club’s plans.
The Knicks still have two max salary slots and they still intend to explore Durant being part of the franchise whether he is able to play next season or not with what is feared to be a torn Achilles tendon.
The Warriors have not announced the results of the MRI exam.
Durant is 30 years old and one of the most motivated players in NBA history who should be determined not to let this potentially catastrophic injury define him. ESPN.com reported that opting in to the final year of his Warriors deal is a last resort. Achilles tears can take from eight to 12 months to recover from.
The Post has reported his opt-out deadline is late — June 29, or one day before the free-agency courting period. However, many NBA officials believe a player like Durant is worth the risk in coming back from one of the toughest injuries there is for big men. The Knicks fall into that category.
Durant fell in a heap in the second quarter in his NBA Finals return in Game 5 from a four-and-a-half-week absence from a calf strain, pulling at his lower right leg. The Warriors held on for a 106-105 win in the game to cut the Raptors’ series lead to 3-2.
Warriors GM Bob Myers delivered a tearful postgame press conference to reveal Durant had an Achilles injury, with the extent of the tear unknown.
It is noteworthy he went to New York for exams — perhaps a sign he doesn’t trust the Warriors medical staff as much after it cleared him to play. Durant planned to visit Tuesday with Dr. Martin O’Malley, an associate attending orthopedic surgeon at HSS, who operated on Durant’s foot in 2015. O’Malley doubles as the Nets team physician.
Myers said he takes any of the blame as the Warriors prepared for Game 6 in Oakland trailing 3-2 without Durant.
The issue with Durant is what kind of diminished asset would the Knicks be bringing in and if his injury will prevent another star such as Kyrie Irving or Kawhi Leonard from joining the team.
The Knicks have been in the mix for an Anthony Davis trade, but a source said their young assets may not stack up against some other teams involved and would need a third team to make it happen.
— Additional reporting by Brian Lewis