Months after the fireworks he lit with his Fourth of July relocation declaration, Kevin Durant continues to explain why he bailed on the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He continues to explain despite one simple truth: The explaining of such things is a no-win proposition.
Perhaps it’s an effort to ingratiate himself with Golden State Warriors fans and teammates. It’s the same kind of gesture he employed with the Thunder in 2008, and with the Seattle SuperSonics the year before that, and with Texas Longhorns fans the year before that, when he chose a college 1,527 miles away from Montrose Christian outside Washington, D.C.
But whenever Durant compliments the Warriors, it’s different. The skeptics immediately twist anything—seemingly everything—as a dig against the Thunder.
The latest example came Oct. 10 when Durant spoke at Stanford University, per CSN Bay Area:
You hear ‘family’ a lot. That’s just a word sometimes, but this is really a lifestyle here (Golden State). You can feel it when you walk in the door, in the practice facility, everybody is just together. That’s something that I can appreciate as a basketball player and someone who values relationships.
You can tell that that’s what they stand on, that’s what we stand on. I feel really grateful to play for a team like that and play with a bunch of players who are selfless and enjoy the game in its purest form. They make it about the players, they make it about the environment, so it was really an easy choice.
The implication, of course, was “family” is just a word with the Thunder and that the OKC organization doesn’t value relationships. Golden State players are selfless; therefore, Thunder players are selfish.
When the aforementioned quote was repeated three days later to Russell Westbrook, the Thunder’s All-Star point guard responded to reporters: “That’s cute, man. That’s cute. My job is to be able to worry about what’s going on here. We’re gonna worry about all the ‘selfish’ guys we got over here, apparently. So we’re gonna figure that out.”
Durant is too media savvy to not know these responses are pouring salt into a gaping wound in a state that somehow respected his privacy while simultaneously embracing him. He played for a franchise that did nothing but support him for nine seasons and still wishes him well both publicly and privately.
He also played for a franchise that’s gone to great lengths to build a sustainable winner. Somehow, despite losing a top-three player, OKC is still considered a playoff contender. OKC won’t threaten last season’s 55-win total, but a seventh playoff appearance in the last eight years remains a reasonable expectation if key players are able to remain healthy.
Forty years after NBA free agency was implemented, it can be argued that no better player has gone to a better team. The 2013-14 NBA Most Valuable Player and four-time scoring champ is now the property of a team that finished with the league’s best-ever record at 73-9 last season.
The Thunder are now missing one of the league’s ultimate scorers in Durant, a premier shot-blocker in forward Serge Ibaka and have a roster with at least five new players.
Therein lies the most impressive aspect: Even with such a massive defection, the Thunder are still competitively healthy.
“I think we’ve always shown that we’re not going to be deterred,” Presti said when Durant announced his departure. “We’re going to continue to advance, and we’ve always taken the approach of things are more new beginnings than endings, and there’s a new beginning here for the …