Coward. Cheater. Punk. Bum. These are just some of the words floating around after Kevin Durant announced that he’s going to be leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder for the team who defeated them in the Western Conference Finals. Yes, the Golden State Warriors the team with the best regular season in the history of the NBA and the team who went to back to back Finals and nearly won two straight now have the league’s most prominent scorer and arguably one of the top two best players in the NBA in KD. There was a lot of waiting around and finally on the afternoon of July 4th the fireworks were set off in the middle of the day.
Understandably fans in Oklahoma City were devastated. Not only are they going to lose Durant for nothing in return but he’s going to the team who just eliminated them from the playoffs when they had a 3-1 lead. Durant has spent his entire career with the Thunder (slash Sonics), 9 years. He along with Westbrook took a franchise that was down and nearly out after relocating and built them up to be an elite Western Conference contender. His accolades in OKC should never be forgotten: 2013-2014 MVP, 7x All Star, 5x 1st Team All NBA, Rookie of the Year. Yet those 9 years seem to be lost in this frenzy of free agency madness and the reality of this move settling in.
Fans burned and did ridiculous things to his jersey as if ruining an article of clothing is going to do anything to make him come back. It’s a way of coping but it’s silly, this is just a game. People get too personal, way too personal, they want to take it as an assault on themselves and their city when in reality it’s just basketball. Videos went viral of fans trying to rationalize, cope and mourn the loss of their superstar. Crying children, ranting tweens and overly self-righteous adults trying to grab a few minutes of fame. I feel zero sympathy for any of them. Kevin Durant owes nothing to anyone, he spent his time in Oklahoma City he did everything he could to win and he fell short. He made an NBA Finals but lost to the Miami Heat, he made multiple Western Conference Finals but they fell short each time. He gave the city everything, he is the reason why that team is still relevant, he doesn’t owe anyone anything.
With that said Kevin Durant just put a huge red target on his back for criticism and fan backlash. Before this “decision”, Durant was the proverbial hero and LeBron was the villain. Everyone wants to attack LeBron’s throne because of his decision back in 2010 (get over it) and the valid yet taboo conversation of him being better than Michael Jordan is not allowed to even be discussed in some circles. It was black and white, LeBron was bad and Durant was good. That narrative is beginning to change.
Two years ago everyone wanted LeBron to fail in the Finals and were rooting for the Warriors as the underdog. When the Warriors became the favorite and kept winning and winning at a record pace it began to turn people the opposite direction. Curry’s lovable swagger and scoring is now considered cocky and arrogant. Draymond Green being a blue collar work horse guy is now an out of control, overly emotional player who has a tendency of hitting other players in the genitals. Now everyone hates the Warriors, we all want to knock someone off their pedestal and who better than the team who just eclipsed the most hallowed team of our generation, the 1996 Chicago Bulls. To some that cannot be forgiven and those people immediately swayed to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Not only did they want to see the Warriors lose, so their regular season record is somewhat tainted without a ring, they embraced the “Believeland” story and James bringing a championship back to Cleveland. It’s funny how James in Miami was vilified and hated but James in Cleveland is lovable and heroic. I think we’re going to see the same when we think of Durant in Oklahoma vs. Golden State.
The Warriors were already in the process of becoming the villain, most people were already there after these NBA Finals, now the rich get even richer and add Kevin Durant? They are going to be People’s Enemy #1 in the NBA next season. Just like the Yankees or Duke or the Cowboys were in their primes, the Warriors are going to be absolutely hated by anyone who isn’t a Golden State fan. Durant will not get a pass for anything anymore. He chose this path, he chose to team up with the 2x MVP in Steph Curry, he chose to walk into a team who is coming off a 73-9 season, he chose this future. He and his people need to understand this path isn’t necessarily an easy one, he’ll be criticized for every aspect of his game. He’ll be criticized if the Warriors don’t come knocking on 73-9 and he’ll surely be criticized if the Warriors aren’t lifting the O’Brien Trophy come June.
While we all stared at our phones on Independence Day waiting for news to break out of the Durant camp, we saw a lot of impact moves on the fourth day of free agency but all are dwarfed by the news of KD going to the Dubs. In order to free up room for Durant the Warriors had to shed some salary, they had to find a trade partner for Andrew Bogut and they found it in the most unlikely place. Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks agreed to trade for Bogut in exchange for a conditional 2nd round pick. The W’s also had to let Harrison Barnes walk (no big deal considering his miserable NBA Finals performance) and once again the Mavericks were there with a max money offer sheet for him to sign. Officially the deal will be 4 years, $94 million.
Lastly we saw the San Antonio Spurs sign Pau Gasol which leads us all to believe that Tim Ducan is going to retire. There are no official reports on Duncan’s status but if I were a betting man I would say that Duncan steps away especially when you think about the Spurs chances now that the Warriors added Durant and the super team just got even stronger. The 36 year old Gasol will sign a two year deal in the range of $15 million per year. He’ll slot into the starting line-up as the center next to LaMarcus Aldridge and alongside Tony Parker, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard.
We all know what Gasol can do on the offensive end with his mid range jumper, touch in the lane and passing but what the Spurs really need is rebounding, presence in the paint and length. Gasol’s signing came at the expense of having to trade away Boris Diaw and it’s yet to be determined what happens to their bench with David West and Boban Marjanovic. No one will ever be able to fill the shoes of Duncan, all Gasol can do is fit into the Spurs brand of play and help elevate an already impressive 67 win team.