By: Kenny Doyle
When Kevin Durant joined the Warriors in the summer of 2016, he knew what he was doing. He knew NBA fans outside of the bay area wouldn’t be happy that he was joining a 73 win team. He knew he would become the villain. He knew he was creating a juggernaut. He knew he was going to get better driving lanes with Klay Thompson and Steph Curry as his guards instead of Andre Roberson and Russell Westbrook. And he knew that it was time to leave Russell Westbrook.
Suddenly over the past few months, the possessions at the end key playoff games where Russell Westbrook hoisted up ill advised 3 pointers were forgotten. The times when Russell Westbrook made bad decisions and committed silly turnovers were erased. It was all about trying to make the point that Kevin Durant joining the Warriors was wrong, and Russell Westbrook got roped into that. Russell Westbrook wanted to be Jordan. He wanted to be the guy to take the shot and make it. The problem was he wasn’t Jordan, and Westbrook’s career goals didn’t fit with Durant’s. Westbrook ended up repeatedly being the reason why they lost, instead of the reason why they one. This season as Westbrook averaged a triple-double in OKC, he became the reason Durant should have stayed for most. In reality, Westbrook was the reason Durant should have HAD to leave. Or, at least one of them.
The other was the front offices in Oklahoma City and Golden State. One of them traded away James Harden. An MVP caliber player, and one of Durant’s best friends, and all they got back was Jeremy Lamb and Steven Adams. Leaving everyone thinking about what could have been. The Thunder front office was so good at drafting that they got cocky. They thought they could find the next Harden in Jeremy Lamb, and that they could save money that way. They thought the Toronto pick they were getting was going to be top 3, not late lottery. They were wrong. After Lamb fizzled out, unable to escape the shadow of James Harden, he was replaced by Andre Roberson. Who, as mentioned above, just made the game harder for Kevin Durant. Durant had a front office in OKC that was fading into obscurity. Once viewed as team building masterminds, they began looking more like clowns. The other front office that Durant saw was one that did it right. A front office that didn’t trade an injury prone Steph Curry when they were an #13 seed in 2012 going nowhere in a stacked Western Conference. He saw a front office that held onto Klay Thompson despite being offered a player who at the time was viewed as the best power forward in the league in Kevin Love. When Durant saw the Thunder trade another one of his close friends in Serge Ibaka for another lottery pick and Victor Oladipo as he was headed into free agency, he probably saw the same old story he’d been living for years. He knew this was not a front office thinking about rings above everything.
So what was Durant to do once he decided OKC was not the place for him? Should he have joined the Boston Celtics? A team that was clearly less talented than his OKC squad? A 5 seed, first round exit team, with what looked like a career fringe all-star in Isaiah Thomas at the time and a few lottery picks that “looked” like they might be good? No, Durant had lived through that already. If Durant was leaving, he wanted to go to a team like the one that he had in 2012. Like the team that was taken from him. He wanted a dynasty like the one that was taken from him by greedy owners and cocky executives. He saw that team that was taken from him inside Golden State.
If you think Kevin Durant joining the Warriors was unfair, you’re probably right, but so is a team with James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Kevin Durant. Durant has made it clear. He doesn’t care what anyone says about the decision he made. He’s even asking us to say whatever we want about it with his new Nike commercial that aired in celebration of him winning his first championship with the end of the commercial reading “Debate That”. And debate is exactly what everyone will do. The criticism is only just getting started for Kevin Durant, but he’s made it clear he doesn’t care. Criticize him if you want. He just had one of the best and most underrated Finals performances in NBA history accompanied by one of the biggest and most underrated shots in NBA Finals history. Kevin Durant went to Golden State to play basketball. And you know what? He’s pretty good at it.
Photo: (Slam Online)