The Heat met with Durant in New York on July 3, the day before he chose to sign with Golden State. His decision reportedly came down to the Warriors and Thunder.
“I think it’s almost a fiduciary responsibility on my part to keep us in the game as being able to have an audience with Kevin Durant,” Riley said of how the team handled free agency this summer and in the two previous ones. “I knew it was a longshot for us, especially after (Chris Bosh) went down. I’ll never not take an audience with a free agent who calls and says, ‘We’d like to talk to you,’ and vice versa, so when you’re in that position, you have to do it.”
One thing Durant made clear to Riley in their meeting: He wasn’t willing to wait for any plans to come together. The Heat needed to convince him that they would be a championship-level team in the upcoming season.
“He was true to what his criteria were,” Riley said. “His main criteria was, ‘If I go, I want to go to a team where I could win immediately.’ And he lived up to that, as hard as it was for him to move probably from OKC, which is a formidable team… To make the change and go to Golden State, that’s his choice.
“That’s what free agency is about. That’s what happened with Chris and that’s what happened with LeBron (James) and that’s what happened with Kevin. I think you’re probably going to see more and more of the superstars that might be with franchises for years – four or five years – and they’re banging their head against the wall and they get an opportunity to go somewhere where they think they can win now. I think you’re going to see that happen more often.
“So as far as we’re concerned, I’m always looking for that opportunity and that’s what we’ll do again next year. We’ll take a look at it, but there’s no guarantee. You sit down and talk with them and then they’re going to take a look at your roster and take a look at everything, and talk to you about your future and your draft picks and everything.”