New York Knicks’ fans are starting to panic. It’s hard to blame them, given how the early part of the offseason has gone.

Zion Williamson went to the New Orleans Pelicans and Anthony Davis went to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Knicks’ chance of becoming a contender next year went up in smoke when Kevin Durant ruptured his Achilles in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals.

The Knicks’ plan to sign both Durant and Kyrie Irving to max contracts doesn’t look good, to say the least. The point guard is reportedly planning on joining the Brooklyn Nets with the official start of free agency just a few days away. Durant, once thought by many to be a virtual lock to come to Madison Square Garden, is strongly considering pairing up with his fellow All-Star.

The Nets are now the betting favorites to acquire Durant, a distinction once held by the Knicks. The Golden State Warriors are a real threat to keep Durant now that he’s suffered a potentially career-altering injury.

New York is preparing for the possibility of Durant going elsewhere. The Knicks are reportedly getting ready to use their cap space to sign marginal players to short-term deals. There are rumors that DeMarcus Cousins could sign with the team as a consolation prize on a lucrative one-year contract.

Durant and Irving were supposed to save the Knicks. Now, countless New York basketball fans are resigned to the fact their team will remain the laughingstock of the NBA for years to come as Durant wins championships just a few miles away.

The pessimism is understandable, but all hope isn’t lost. There have been no reports indicating Durant is committed to playing for the Nets. He might not even have made up his mind yet.

The Knicks are very much in the Kevin Durant Sweepstakes, and there are even reasons to believe he’ll ultimately end up with the Big Apple’s No.1 franchise.

Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors and Team LeBron warms up before the NBA All-Star game as part of the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, Feb. 17, 2019. Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The buzz regarding Durant and Brooklyn has picked up significant steam because all indications are that Irving will sign with the Nets, who have almost cleared enough cap space to sign two max free agents. It’s no secret that Durant and Irving are friends and have designs of teaming up.

Maybe Durant and Irving will ultimately play together, but it seems clear that the two stars are not a package deal, at least not as far as Durant is concerned. The reporting has been consistent over the last few weeks, noting that the two-time NBA Finals MVP will make his decision independent of Irving.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has said as much, as has The Athletic’s Sam Amick and other insiders. Durant basically echoed that same sentiment during the NBA Finals.

“I can’t be recruited,” Durant told Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes. “Write that.”

When Haynes was asked for a prediction on Durant’s future by FOX Sports Radio’s Jason Smith Wednesday night, the reporter gave the Knicks the best chance to sign the 10-time All-Star. Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher did the same with Colin Cowherd earlier this week, noting all of the ties Durant has to the Knicks’ organization.

Knicks’ general manager Scott Perry was the Seattle SuperSonics’ assistant GM when the team drafted Durant. Durant once called Knicks’ assistant coach Royal Ivey his best friend in the NBA.

Rich Kleiman, Durant’s manager and business partner, is a Knicks’ fan that has expressed a desire to one day run the franchise.

There is a reason that most NBA insiders believed Durant was headed to the Knicks during the regular season. It wasn’t just that New York was going to have cap space or that the idea of Durant playing on the league’s biggest stage made for a fun discussion.

Even some of Durant’s teammates thought he was going to the Knicks, according to SNY’s Ian Begley. That report came well after Draymond Green and Durant got into an in-game altercation, during which Green dared Durant to leave in free agency, according to Haynes. Haynes also reported that members of the Warriors’ organization felt the team’s best player had “one foot out the door.”

ESPN reported in February that Durant’s company, Thirty Five Ventures, was moving into a New York City office. Two weeks prior, the Knicks traded Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks in order to clear enough space under the salary cap to sign two free agents to max contracts.

Maybe Durant was once ready to join the Knicks and has since changed his mind. He’s certainly within his right to do so.

The Nets have the far better roster after reaching the playoffs as the East’s No.6 seed. The Knicks were the worst team in basketball last year. If Irving goes to Brooklyn, Durant would likely have to go to the Knicks without another All-Star by his side, making his path to another NBA Finals even more difficult.

The injury, along with Irving’s decision, might have changed everything. Signing a contract with Brooklyn or Golden State is in play for Durant, and probably much more so than it was a few months ago when the Nets didn’t have enough cap space for two stars and the Warriors seemed on their way to a three-peat.

The Knicks make it a legitimate three-team race, assuming the Los Angeles Clippers don’t have much of a chance.

New York’s odds of landing Durant aren’t as high as they once appeared. It’s less than a 50/50 probability. It’s also more than a five or 10 percent chance. The Nets could have a slight edge, but not by much.

We’ll have our answer soon. Free agency starts Sunday at 6 p.m EDT. It will probably only take a few days, at most, before Durant answers the question that’s been hovering over the NBA for a year.

The Knicks still have hope. The dream isn’t dead just yet.