Kevin Durant needs a thicker skin if he’s coming to the Knicks.
That was the message from TNT analyst Reggie Miller, who has extensive experience with the New York media and fans during his time as the Knicks’ No. 1 villain of the ’90s.
Durant blew up at the Golden State media last week because of an article in The Athletic concerning his uncertain future with the franchise.
“Here’s my question: If he’s a little surly and upset by what an Athletic writer wrote about him – if he has a couple bad games in New York, under that microscope – he’s really going to be upset,” said Miller in a TNT conference call to preview the station’s coverage of the All-Star game Sunday. “So you have to factor in everything when you’re considering joining the New York Knicks, the No. 1 media market in the world and in our game. So you can’t be upset with the media when you’re back-to-back NBA champions and you’re back-to-back MVPs and you think the kitchen is hot now, if you think joining the Knicks and the expectations that follow that, there’s a lot that comes with it.
“That’s why you have to factor in not only the money, but you have to factor in the lifestyle and the winning. And yeah, I’m sure KD does think that yeah, if I went there … of course if he got help … yeah, I can turn this franchise around. But there are expectations that come with that. And we know how the New York media can be. He’s going to have to understand what it’s all about if he chooses to go down that route. Personally, I believe I can’t see him going to New York. But again, I can be absolutely wrong.”
Durant, as Miller referenced, has demonstrated sensitivity to criticism over the years, whether it was forcing the local Oklahoma City newspaper to apologize for a headline (that would never happen in New York) or setting up fake Twitter accounts to defend himself. If Durant prefers privacy and unconditional adulation, perhaps New York is not the best location.
But c’mon Reggie, the media here isn’t that bad.
“Aww stop it, Stefan. You are okay. But I’ve had my run-ins, so I understand how the New York media is,” Miller said. “But if you win, you can become Derek Jeter. If you win in New York – that Frank Sinatra song – you are a God. You are a King.
“And the thing about it is, he doesn’t necessarily have to win a championship. If he can get the Knicks – who have been terrible for the last decade, terrible – if he goes there and turns the Knicks around and gets them to the conference finals. That is a step in the right direction if he gets them back to the conference finals or the finals. Then after that all bets are off because they’re going to be thinking about championships.”
The Knicks have cap space this summer to sign two max free agents and the top targets are Durant and Kyrie Irving. There have been signs both players will at least consider the Knicks, with the latest being news that Durant’s invest company is moving to New York. Remember LeBron James’ companies were set up in L.A. before he signed with the Lakers.
Either way, Miller – who was very skeptical of the Knicks as a free agency destination under Phil Jackson – believes the tide has turned.
“I think there’s been somewhat of a culture change within that organization,” he said. “But to me it started within that front office. I think the hiring of coach (David) Fizdale has helped tremendously because I think that’s going to be a big part of whoever they go after this summer. Will they get the ones that they are projecting in Kyrie and Kevin Durant? That remains to be seen. But for them to be able to clear the salary cap and show the Knicks faithful and their fanbase that they are at least trying to step in the right direction.”
Miller warned that pivoting to a lesser free agent would be the wrong move for the Knicks. It didn’t work in 2010 when they struck out on LeBron James and signed Amar’e Stoudemire.
This summer, the second tier includes players like Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, DeMarcus Cousins, Khris Middleton and Tobias Harris.
“The key is going to be when they have all this money is giving it to the right player. Because there’s a couple free agents out there where if you give them the max deal, I’m not sure it’s going to solve all your problems,” Miller said. “In a perfect world, if it’s KD, if it’s Kyrie – personally I don’t see that happening. But I could be absolutely wrong. But it’s key that they give those max contracts to the right players. Because it can hamstring this team going further if the wrong players get those max contracts.”
Chris Webber, who is also calling the All-Star game for TNT, agreed that the spotlight and pressure could be a deterrent for Durant. But he added there are multiple factors at play.