Opinion: Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant to Knicks? Possible, impossible at the same time

Earlier this season, an NBA Eastern Conference executive told me, “Kevin Durant is going to the Knicks.”

Now, whether Durant ends up with New York is irrelevant. 

The executive requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about potential future moves involving players from other teams. But the fact NBA executives believe this move is possible says enough and has league-altering ramifications. And the Knicks’ trade on Thursday did nothing to change that perception.

The NBA’s axis is spinning fast. It’s peak NBA this week, right alongside the Super Bowl in the national sports conversation.

Anthony Davis wants to be traded, the Knicks traded Kristaps Porzingis, the Mavericks can pair Porzingis next to rookie Luka Doncic and the Knicks just created salary cap space for two max salary players: hello Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Irving’s comments Friday morning – his Celtics are in New York to play the Knicks – added another log to the winter fire. “I don’t owe anybody (expletive),” Irving said when asked about free agency.

The 2019 summer of free agency is taking a new shape with wide-open possibilities, and the pressure is on the Knicks.

On a teleconference Thursday night, Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry downplayed the pressure.

“We’re going to be prudent in how we use that (salary cap) room … when there’s an opportunity to add a free agent, that’s certainly one of the tools we have in our toolbox,” Mills said.

But this is clear: given the big-name free agents available in 2019 compared to the free agents available in 2020, the Knicks need to strike big this summer.

They have the cap space, stars are available, the timing is right, and it will be a huge disappointment if the Knicks don’t land Irving and Durant, or one of them in combination with another talented player.

That’s reality even if the Knicks try to spin it otherwise.

Timing-wise, it’s not going to get any better for the Knicks, especially since they will have a high draft pick to select potentially Duke’s Zion Williamson or R.J. Barrett.

If Durant wins a third consecutive championship with the Warriors, it makes his departure simple and explainable. He has his titles and he can go elsewhere and build a championship contender without the stigma of joining a team with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to win a title.

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