Thanks for Nothing KD
Never before in my 16 years of watching NBA basketball, have I been so uninterested for the start of a season. And I have Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors to thank for that.
When the rumblings started early last year about the possibility of Kevin Durant teaming up with Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, like most people I shrugged it off. It made much more sense for Durant to stay in Oklahoma City where they could offer him the most amount of money by a considerable margin. Not only that, but he was also playing alongside a top 5 NBA talent in Russell Westbrook. Now I am far from a Westbrook fan as I have always questioned his basketball IQ (especially in the 4th quarter), high turnover rate, and inexplicably outshooting Durant game after game. It was evident that there were games KD was frustrated with his “point guard”, and one had to wonder how much he really enjoyed playing basketball along side Russ. With that being said, Westbrook’s talent and athleticism is undeniable, and as long as they were playing together, the Thunder always had a shot to win an NBA championship.
With free agency creeping closer and closer, the whispers about Durant joining the Warriors grew louder and louder. Still, it seemed more like a fantasy ideal than a realistic situation. However, after the Thunder’s choke job in the Western Conference Finals this past year going up 3–1, but losing 4–3 to the Warriors, Durant’s future in Oklahoma City was as big a question mark as ever.
When the free agency process started, I wasn’t surprised that Kevin Durant took a meeting with the Warriors. Players love free agency because of all the love and attention they get from teams. It is the ultimate ego stroke. But when Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted out that Durant had decided to join the Golden State Warriors, it finally sunk in… Kevin Durant pulled the most cowardly move in recent sports history and hopped on the Warriors bandwagon.
He has stated his reason for leaving was solely “basketball move”, but that is an easy cop-out. While true that Oklahoma City’s offence for years has been mostly 1-on-1 isolation basketball, with Durant and Westbrook playing “who’s turn is it to shoot”, it simply doesn’t let him off the hook. If he wanted to leave OKC because it finally became intolerable playing beside such a ball-dominant, shoot-first point guard, that is his decision and he has every right to do so. But if there’s one team he should not even have thought to join, it should have been the team that knocked him out of the playoffs. He abandoned an OKC team that he battled with night-in and night-out, poured blood, sweat and tears with, to the team that beat him? What kind of character does that show?
If Kevin wanted to go to any other team he had met with in the offseason, that would have been justifiable. They were all playoff caliber teams with the right pieces in place to make a serious run for an NBA title. In my opinion, I feel the Celtics would have been the best fit for Durant. They have a solid young backcourt in Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart, one of the best 3-and-D players in Jae Crowder and made a big splash in free agency by landing all-star big man Al Horford. In addition, he would be playing for one of the top coaches in the NBA, Brad Stevens, who last year was in the conversation for Coach of the Year. Put Durant on that team and in a weaker Eastern Conference, they all but promise themselves a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. Here, he could finally try and get the better of Lebron, something he has failed miserably to do in the past. In this situation, the argument of saying leaving OKC was a “basketball move” is viable.
Where has the pride in these new age players gone? What happened to wanting to prove you’re the best by beating the best? Especially when you’re Kevin Durant who has come up short in the playoffs numerous times, none more evident then the past year when he only needed to lead his team to one more win to go to the finals. One would think that his mission this year, would be to come back more focused then ever, eager to kick Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors’ ass out of the playoffs and eventually get revenge on Lebron for losing in the 2012 finals. Sadly, it seems that old-school competitive edge is non-existent.
Instead we have a team who was virtually unstoppable all regular season, add another superstar. Now looking at the upcoming year, who realistically other than the Cavs or Spurs have a chance to beat the Warriors? The Spurs signing of future hall of famer Pau Gasol went under the radar because of the Durant signing, but I have my doubts if this move actually helps their chances of beating the Warriors. Is LaMarcus Alridge and Pau Gasol really going to chase Kevin Durant and Draymond Green off the 3-point line? Does Tony Parker at age 34 have a prayer in containing Curry in a 7 game series? They don’t seem to matchup well, especially if the Warriors implement their small ball line up that has made them one of the most explosive offences in NBA history.
The Thunder will be competitive in the West simply because Westbrook is a competitive freak of nature. With Durant not letting Westbrook know of his decision to leave OKC before he announced it, along with the subliminal shots at his former team throughout the summer, you can bet Westbrook and new back-court partner Victor Oladipo will come out firing. However, last time Westbrook was “the man” in OKC they failed to make the playoffs, leaving significant questions if they can challenge the Warriors. The Clippers are always a team to watch, especially with talents like Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, but if history have taught us anything, it’s they always find a way to lose. In their 46 year history, they have never made it past the Western Conference Semi-Finals. Other constant playoff teams in recent seasons, such as the Portland Trailblazers, Dallas Mavericks, and Memphis Grizzlies, have not made any moves that would feasibly warrant them getting to the NBA finals this year.
For the past six years, whatever team Lebron James has played on has went to the finals. Since Lebron returned to Cleveland they are 24–4 in the playoffs against Eastern Conference teams, showing that they are virtually cruising to the Finals. The Raptors, who have shown to be their biggest regular season competitor, seem to turn into a different team in the playoffs, mostly coming from the hot-and-cold play from their two all stars Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry. The Miami Heat have fallen off a cliff after losing Dwyane Wade because they did not want to pay him the money and Chris Bosh whose health has possibly prevented him from ever playing another game in the NBA. The Knicks key additions of Derrick Rose and Joakhim Noah make them a playoff team, but the lack of depth still remains an issue, not to mention Rose and Noah are two of the most fragile players in the league today. The Bulls, who managed to land both Wade and former all-star Rajon Rondo, look like they can challenge the top teams in the East, although there lack of shooters and ball-dominant personalities may create a stale offence. Boston with their young nucleus of talent, and Indiana with super star Paul George and their impressive off-season signings, look most poised to challenge the Cavaliers. With that being said, both these teams got bounced out in the first round last year, so it may take a year or two before they give the Cavs a legitimate run for their money. Besides if the past six years are any indication, you’d be a fool to bet against Lebron James getting his team to the NBA finals.
I hate that I feel this way, but I’m sure many people feel the same way. As a basketball fan I’m still going to watch, I can’t help it, I love the game. Yet the excitement I feel days before the start of a season is all but gone. It’s like knowing the end of a movie before you start watching it. Yes, there are some sub plots that are interesting to watch such as: Will this be the year the Timberwolves and their young core make it to the playoffs? Can the Lakers find success with D’Angelo “the snitch” Russell being the focus of the offence following the Kobe era? Will the the Knicks and Bulls be able to show they are for real? Can Westbrook prove that he can lead a team to the playoffs? How will the Clippers lose in the playoffs this year? Will the Brooklyn Nets even win a game?
All of these stories are interesting to track, but unfortunately does not take away from the fact that it is almost inevitable to not envision another Warriors and Cleveland finals; and for Kevin Durant’s sake he better hope that he doesn’t come in second this time… something he has been all too familiar with his whole life.