According to the Internet, Kevin Durant has been thinking about playing with just about every other team in the NBA. This comes despite his instance that he hasn’t. So who do you believe?
You believe the player, of course. Everyone seems so transfixed on where Durant is going to play in 2016-17, they’re overlooking where he’s playing right now. So let’s discuss all things Kevin Durant and cut out as much crap as we can.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF PEOPLE FABRICATING LIES ABOUT KD
He’s been linked from nearly every team in the NBA from New York to Toronto to Washington to [fill in the blank]. It’s impossible to escape it. All a writer needs to do these days is allege that his “sources” told him something up and then off we go. Here’s a look back at the four biggest milestones in this shit show.
August 20th, 2015 – Durant Shuts Down Rumor Mill In Preseason
During one of Team USA’s minicamp, a reporter asked what the worst part of the offseason was. This was Kevin Durant’s response:
“Along with [Thunder PR man Matt Tumbleson], I’ve got two people that I trust with my life, my agent and my manager, who’s my best friend as well. I trust them with my life. So if you hear sources or anything, don’t believe it if it didn’t come from them. I tell them everything. We bounce ideas off each other. We collaborate on a lot of different things. They give me advice. So throughout this year, if you hear sources from anybody, it’s not true, unless you hear it from Charlie Bell, Rich Kleiman or Kevin Durant.” (Courtesy CBSsports.com)
That should be it, right? Everyone should’ve realized how tight Durant’s circle was right then and there, and that any unsubstantiated “report” was going to probably be drawn out of thin air.
Did it slow anything down? Absolutely not. This stuff happens in the Internet age.
But we’re not talking about random blogs creating rumors about the superstar’s impending free agency. I wouldn’t get mad if some useless blogger thought it was the best thing for his little business. When it’s guys who work at major media outlets? Yeah, I get pretty pissed off about it.
September 29th, 2015 – Stephen A. Smith Does It Again
Leave it to First Take truther, Stephen A Smith to spout off some random nonsense and get this whole Durant rumor mill spinning. Stephen A. Smith was the first major media personality to say something errant about KD.
“Regardless of how senseless it may (sound), in one breath I’m hearing that if Kevin Durant doesn’t stay in Oklahoma City, L.A. is his primary objective and landing spot as opposed to South Beach or even his home of Washington, D.C.,” – Stephen A. Smith
This is Kevin Durant’s direct response when questioned by Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman: “I don’t talk to Stephen A. Smith at all. Nobody in my family, my friends, they don’t talk to Stephen A. Smith. So he’s lying.” (From KD’s mouth).
To say that Smith went nuclear is an understatement. The man doesn’t like being called out by anyone, and he hates having his integrity called in to question. Yet that should happen when you’re making up lies about someone. Surely this would put an end to this?
February 2nd, 2016 – People Start Talking About The Warriors
Back in November, a guy named Danny Leroux of the SportingNews.com batted around the idea of Kevin Durant potentially signing with the Warriors. He went through all the painstaking effort to calculate the financial feasibility of Kevin Durant ending up on the Golden State Warriors. The piece makes a lot of assumptions – like Harrison Barnes somehow settling for a contract that pays him $9.6 million – but it started something.
Three months later, the Internet literally blew up with people talking about the idea of Durant actually joining the Golden State Warriors. You literally couldn’t get through the month of February without stumbling in to another article about the Warriors blowing up their roster to unite Curry and Durant.
This one was a bit different. People weren’t saying that he said anything, but the conjecture was out of control. It was the hot, fake rumor to peddle before someone decided to use their “sources” to turn out the next Kevin Durant rumor.
March 6th, 2016 – Finals or Bust
Joel Meyers, who calls the figurative shots for the New Orleans Pelicans as their play-by-play announcer, used his XM Radio show to say, “I made some calls over the weekend. If they don’t, I’m told if they don’t at least get to the NBA Finals, Durant’s gone. Simple as that. And to the point where he may want his own team.”
Days later, Kevin Durant had to respond to what the Internet and media reporters everywhere were asking. Is it true? Did you really point a fake gun to your team’s head? “If it didn’t come from me or anyone I know, like I said in the summer time, I don’t know where it came from. Everybody makes up rumors around this time of year and everyone wants clicks for their stories, so that’s a part of it. I have nothing to do with that. I can’t control it. I’m just focused on playing better each and every day.”
Durant further expanded ‘you put too much pressure on everybody if you say something like that. Especially my teammates and this organization, they don’t deserve that. So I never said that, I never thought about that. (From Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman)
Another rumor shot down almost immediately. Make it stop. Please, for the love of god. I’m trying to enjoy this season!
THE SIMPLE SOLUTION TO IGNORING KEVIN DURANT RUMORS
Ignore all of them. You’re going to click on them out of instinct because we all want to be in the loop. I fall for these things on a daily basis. But it’s your job to sift through information with a sense of legitimacy.
Kevin Durant has made two things abundantly clear since last summer. The first is that he’s not going to share his intimate thoughts about his free agent decision. The second is that local beat writer Anthony Slater has his trust. If any rumor or suggestion surrounding his future is going to come out, I’d be surprised if it didn’t pipe through Anthony Slater before anyone else.
We are not going to learn anything definitive until sometime in the summer so let’s let sleeping dogs lie before Kevin Durant stops talking to any of us.
BY THE WAY, DURANT IS TRYING TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP
Earlier this week, I wrote a very detailed piece whether the San Antonio Spurs could beat the Golden State Warriors because the Western Conference feels like a two-horse race. While combing through the NBA Championship futures odds, I found one very odd thing.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are in some sort of strange dead zone. Their +1200 odds are triple that of the Spurs and more than half of the Los Angeles Clippers. No other team falls within a similar range to them.
Top 6 Teams in NBA Championship Futures
- Golden State Warriors -150
- Cleveland Cavaliers +325
- San Antonio Spurs +400
- Oklahoma City Thunder +1200
- Los Angeles Clippers +2500
- Toronto Raptors +3300
What does this tell you? It means that the oddsmakers are pretty goddamn nervous about the Oklahoma City Thunder. There’s no real reason to give them odds like that. Why not inflate it to +2000 and try and secure some more action at the window? Keep in mind that oddsmakers set futures odds both to attract bettors, but also to mitigate loss if something whacky happens. You don’t just hang a team in some nether region for the sake of it.
Oklahoma City slides in as the third best team in the NBA by net efficiency, an advanced metric that rates the Warriors as the best offense and the Spurs as the top defense. Using basic metrics, Oklahoma City ranks second in offense (110.1 per game) and they’re also the runaway choice as the top rebounding club in the association. This is a stupid, roundabout way of reminding you that the Oklahoma City Thunder are really fucking good at basketball.
It’s not impossible for the Thunder to gain steam and defeat the Spurs or Warriors. Metrics and data are only going to tell part of the story. They came awfully close to nearly vanquishing the Warriors twice in the past month, and they opened their season with a win over the Spurs. They play San Antonio three times over the final month of the season.
The biggest part of this gamble is that there’s a high probability that the Thunder would have to go through both of the Western Conference leaders instead of one or the other. That’s a massive gauntlet to survive. But if any duo can do it, it’s the one comprised of Durant and Russell Westbrook.
PLEASE APPRECIATE WESTBROOK WITH DURANT WHILE WE CAN
One of the glorious things about Durant and Westbrook is that they’ve been able to play off of each other, while never getting in each other’s way. They are truly one of the great NBA duos in the modern era, and with everything about Durant’s future up in the air next season, this could be the last time we see them together.
The thought of it makes me truly sad.
You can’t rank Westbrook-Durant on an all-time duos list because every significant pairing in the history of the NBA won a championship. The only pair that might come to mind that didn’t was Stockton (all-time leader in assists) and Malone (second all-time in points). Durant and Westbrook both have miles to go before they touch either of those ceilings.
I talk a lot about the good fortune of certain people crossing paths at the right time in the right place. You need to be lucky enough to surround yourself with the right people to succeed. And that’s what happened when Westbrook and Durant found themselves in Oklahoma City together (sorry, Seattle).
They’ve hardly known an NBA life without each other. Durant was drafted second overall a year ahead of Westbrook, who was taken fourth in 2008. In a sense, they’ve grown up together in a small town with the entire world watching. You could say that neither would be where they are without each other.
Now they’re both 27 years old, entering their absolute primes. They have the chance to carve out a truly unique legacy in an NBA city that doesn’t have one. And it cannot be understated how important they are to each other on and off the court as friends. Part of Durant’s MVP speech was telling Westbrook how he’s the first to have his back.
These two are so tight knit that it’s almost disrespectful to mock it by calling it a bromance. This is good as friendships get in the NBA and that’s a beautiful thing.
The modern NBA is persistently about egos. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving can’t seem to get in rhythm on the court. LaMarcus Aldridge apparently left Portland because Damian Lillard was becoming too much of a box office attraction. Dwight Howard and James Harden hate each other. For all the fury up north about the Raptors, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan don’t come off as this united front ready to conquer the world. I could go on and on.
I simply can’t think of a better person for Kevin Durant to be playing basketball with than Russell Westbrook. Not only are they intrinsically complicated and rich in personality, they understand what it takes to win together. Both can try and forge that relationship elsewhere with other players, but they know for a fact that what they have in OKC works.
It might not last forever. Basketball is still a business and things change. So while everyone else looks past the playoffs and in to the wilderness of free agency, I will be doing what every true basketball fan should be doing: enjoying the Durant and Westbrook show while I can.