Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant will enter free agency again in 2019 and is expected to leave Golden State. In this picture, Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors reacts after a play against the Charlotte Hornets during their game at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina Feb. 25, 2019. Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The New York Knicks have made headway in their pursuit of Kevin Durant and the possibility of him joining them when he enters free agency in the summer is very “real,” says The Athletic’s Sam Amick. The NBA insider is certain that it is not mere speculation and that there is certainly some amount of truth in the rumors about New York being constantly mentioned as his next destination.

The Golden State Warriors small forward arrived in the Bay Area in 2016 from Oklahoma City Thunder and, despite the criticism about joining Stephen Curry’s bandwagon, he has more than held his own. Durant played a key role in helping them win back-to-back NBA championships in 2017 and 2018 – he was named the NBA Finals MVP on both occasions.

Durant entered free agency in 2018 but decided to sign a short-term 1+1 contract instead of committing his long-term future to the franchise. He will opt-out of his deal this summer and enter free agency again and had revealed earlier that earning big money and enjoying playing basketball are two of his priorities when he becomes a free agent.

The Warriors can offer Durant a max contract worth $221 million over five years, while any other interested franchise can only offer him a four-year deal worth around $164 million. But multiple reports suggest that the forward could seek a new challenge if he wins a third straight title in 2019, which the Warriors are favored to do.

The Knicks have been linked with a move for Durant since the start of the season and the player himself has dismissed speculation on numerous occasions. The New York franchise already had enough cap space for a big free agent in the summer, now they can target two after they traded Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks earlier this month.

And Amick is certain that there is more than just speculation when it comes to Durant’s potential move to the Staples Center in the summer. The Warriors are also braced for a potential departure with the player yet to give a clear indication of his plans.

"Do I think a team like the Knicks has a very high level of optimism that wouldn't be there if some reason for optimism had not been conveyed to them?" Amick said via a conference call on The Rich Eisen Show.

“No, I do not believe they're doing this of their own accord entirely to best position themselves to get two specific max players.

"The league has itself a very challenging situation when it comes to tampering because it's not that hard in any walk of life to have a message conveyed through a couple of back channels so that certain people's hands are clean and they can go about their business,” he explained. "The Knicks thing is real. There's a reason they feel really good about their shot at this thing.”

Amick restricts himself from saying that the deal is all but done, as he admits that Durant could well decide to stay if he feels the Warriors are the best team for him to carry on building his legacy.

"That's not for me to say that it's already over the finished line and we're just waiting for him to put on the jersey. I still fall back on the reality that, from a human standpoint, if you're a guy like Kevin Durant and you go win a third straight title and your mind has to then process what's best for you and your career,” he added.

"There are still events to happen here that do play a part. But do I think wheels are in motion in certain spots? Absolutely."