Do you remember when you first heard about free agent Kevin Durant allegedly negotiating with the Golden State Warriors, last summer?
Our original reactions were, pretty unanimously, “he can’t be serious.”
And, “No one quits his team to join his arch-rivals.”
But Kevin Durant really did walk away from the only team he had known, signing with the Warriors to create a “super team” — as if a team that won an NBA-record 73 games last season needed reinforcements.
And tonight, in Oklahoma City, Durant plays in OKC for the first time as a member of the Warriors.
Let’s just say things have been a little weird, ahead of the game.
–Start with security. Durant hired extra security people to travel with the team to the OKC game. ESPN is reporting the Warriors security team at the arena tonight will be “triple” the usual number. We don’t know it that’s three instead of one or six instead of two or nine instead of three …
–Durant’s agent will sit next to Durant’s mother (agents can be pretty mean), and it is expected some of that extra security will sit near those two.
–The return of Durant prompted a bizarre reaction from Russell Westbrook. The usually sphinx-like Westbrook went all chatty, much to the surprise of reporters he usually abuses. Westbrook not only spoke in sentences, he spoke in paragraphs. Here’s one: “Hurt? I mean, I’m fine. I’m fine. Honestly. Move forward. Things happen in life, man, and as a man, you’ve got to move forward. I have a great group of guys here that I love like my brothers. There’s been many-a-teammates I’ve had here before that left me, and they’re still my brothers. That I still talk to and I don’t talk to. Not just Kevin. There’s many guys that have come in and out of Oklahoma City that I’ve gained a relationship with that maybe you guys don’t know about, but I think obviously, with me and Kevin, it’s a little bigger stage. It happens.”
Wow. That guy won’t shut up.
–The owner of one of the Thunder’s favored eateries — the Mahogany Prime Steakhouse — says he was approached by representatives of Durant’s who wanted to rent out the whole of the restaurant, post-game, for the Warriors traveling party. He said he told Durant’s people “no”, leaving on the table as much as $35,000 to keep the place open for Thunder players and fans — as per usual. Owner Dave Osborn reportedly said: “I told [Durant’s people], ‘I apologize, but I just can’t do it. I’ve got to stay true to the fans and the people that come in here because I do have a lot of people that come in after games’.”
He did say he would take a reservation from Durant. Just not for the whole resto, which includes a private room for Westbrook.
Oh, and they will play a game tonight.
The Warriors have the best record in basketball, at 45-8. The Thunder, typically the second-best team in the Western Conference when Durant was playing there, are in a playoffs position, but a modest one — 31-23, seventh-best in the conference.
Westbrook is having a monster season and is on pace to average a triple double: 30.9 points per game (best in the NBA), 10.5 rebounds and 10.2 assists. No NBA player has averaged a triple double since Oscar Robertson, in 1961.
Durant is working his way into a team that was really good without him. On some nights, he is not the first option and not even the second.
But most fans probably are happy that he jumped to the Warriors. It creates one more great rivalry, with Westbrook, and it is almost as hot as some that came before, including Shaquille O’Neal versus Kobe Bryant and LeBron James versus Dwyane Wade or Kobe.
Now let’s see how it turns out.