Speaking on an ESPN radio program Friday, Smith said that there is a “big possibility” that Durant and Westbrook could wind up in Los Angeles together in 2017, when the latter hits free agency. Plenty of NBA observers apart from Smith already believe that Durant, who enters free agency this summer, will return to the Thunder on a one-year deal and re-enter the market next year.
“Keep in mind this,” Smith told the “Mason and Ireland” show. “One of the biggest reasons, I’m told, that Kevin Durant may have the Lakers at the top of his list is because the Lakers have been led to believe — by whom specifically I do not know — but the Lakers have been led to believe that it is a very good chance that the following year Russell Westbrook is coming.
“So, because of that, this notion that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook ain’t tight, that they don’t want to play together, that is a lie,” he continued. “They love each other, and they love being on the same team with one another. And if it so happens to be in the L.A. market, all the better.
“I’m not saying that it’s done, I’m not saying that they said they’re going to leave Oklahoma City, but it’s a big possibility. It’s a big possibility.”
Smith, in his typically bombastic way, seemed to have been taking pains to emphasize that he wasn’t saying that Durant definitely would leave the Thunder for the Lakers. Perhaps the ESPN personality was stung a bit by what unfolded after he had said in October, “I’m hearing that if Kevin Durant doesn’t stay in Oklahoma City, L.A. is his primary objective and landing spot as opposed to South Beach or even his home of Washington, D.C.”
That led to Durant, who has been trying all season to keep a lid on free agency rumors and questions, saying that Smith was “making up stories.” In turn, Smith sternly told the 2014 NBA MVP, via the “First Take” cameras, “You do NOT want to make an enemy out of me.”
So taking Smith’s analysis here with a certain portion of salt is likely advisable. However, there are some facts that point to the plausibility of his scenario, including that the Lakers are currently on the hook for just under $25 million in salary obligations after the 2016-17 season (per Spotrac), potentially giving them room to sign a pair of top free agents, and that Westbrook is a Los Angeles native who played at UCLA.
In December, Westbrook purchased a $4.65 million Los Angeles home from “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” star Scott Disick, further fueling rumors of his eventual move to the Lakers. Durant’s preference is to keep his impending fee agency from turning into a reality show, but only the moment when he actually signs a long-term contract will quell the chatter.