Stephen A. Smith changes reporting, still not buying Mat Ishbia’s response on Kevin Durant

Jun 27, 2024, 11:22 AM | Updated: 11:48 am

Stephen A. Smith and ESPN colleague Malika Andrews...

ESPN commentators Stephen A. Smith (L) and Malika Andrews report before Game Three of the 2024 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center on June 12, 2024 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images)

(Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images)

ESPN talking head Stephen A. Smith doubled down on his reporting about the Phoenix Suns’ willingness to trade Kevin Durant. Or was it that Durant isn’t so pleased with being a Sun?

Smith on Wednesday before the NBA Draft reported that the Suns’ “want out of Kevin Durant right now.” On Thursday, he was asked by his First Take co-hosts whether he believed Suns owner Mat Ishbia’s attempt to squash that report with a post on X.

“Hell, no. Of course not,” Smith said. “First of all, let’s understand something. From what I’m being told, Kevin Durant ain’t too keen on staying in Phoenix. He ain’t demanded no trades or anything but he wouldn’t mind being up out of there.”

So to be clear: Smith veered the other way, suggesting Durant was unhappy. To some degree, he backpedaled on his reporting that the Suns want to trade their star forward, merely assuming that Ishbia and the Suns would of course have a price to consider any Durant deal.

“Number two, don’t tell me Mat Ishbia is all sold on this after he got bounced out via a sweep at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round of the (dadgum) playoffs,” Smith said. “You think about the assets you could potentially get for a superstar the likes of Kevin Durant, you can’t tell me that’s something that Mat Ishbia is not going to entertain, just because he’s committed to him being in Phoenix. It all depends on the assets that you can get. I know they don’t want to let go of Devin Booker. I know Devin Booker doesn’t want to leave Phoenix — if he wants to leave Phoenix he wouldn’t mind being a Knick — but he doesn’t want to leave Phoenix. He’s the face of that franchise, he’s homegrown, we get all of that.”

That, by the way, is the second time Smith has linked Booker to the Knicks, which adds to the ESPN analyst’s low-hit-rate history of linking stars to New York.

“Kevin Durant, even at the age of 35, is still a superstar in this game,” Smith continued. “But he’s not there for the long haul, and unless you’re talking about winning a title in the immediate future, which I don’t think the Phoenix Suns should be thinking about … I think the bottom line is you have to entertain all options.”

Ishbia, for the record, has stated multiple times he is thinking about chasing a championship next year.

Back in May, he and James Jones, the Suns president of basketball operations and general manager, tried to pour cold water on the thought of dissolving Phoenix’s Big Three of Durant, Booker and Bradley Beal.

The Suns owner had to do so again via X Wednesday after Smith said to “pay no attention to what Phoenix is saying. They want out of Kevin Durant right now.”

“NBA Draft night is the best” Ishbia responded on X. “Everyone talking about the drama and storylines, some are right and some are just wrong,

“My turn. Phoenix loves Kevin Durant and Kevin Durant loves Phoenix, and we are competing for a championship this year because we have the team to do it. Gotta love draft night! Go Suns.”

It should also be mentioned Durant is eligible to earn a contract extension starting in July. He has two years left on his current deal but could be extended through 2026-27, his age 38 season.

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