Predicting Durant's Future
Just as difficult four years later
Bill Simmons quoted Kenny Smith as musing about the state of the National Basketball League and saying, "If [a small-market team] builds the right pieces around the right guy, he will stay. Period. Duncan stayed in San Antonio because it built the right team around him. Stockton and Malone stayed in Utah because they had each other. Durant will stay in Oklahoma City because of Westbrook and everyone else."
Kevin Durant is an interesting player. When he was drafted, the two biggest lines of thinking were that it might have been a mistake for the Portland Trailblazers to take Greg Oden over him (that one might be close to proven by now) and that he could only bench press 185 pounds. However, now he's a proven commodity. Despite the Oklahoma City Thunder not doing as well this year as prognosticators said the team could or would, no one would deny that Durant is an all-star and one of the most up and coming players in the league.
Oklahoma City seems to be the perfect place for him, too. He's encouraged the nickname of Thunder U for the team, harkening back to his college days. He's joined on the court by some of the youngest stars the league didn't know it had to offer. And he interacts with his fans and the online community) in the best way a manager could ask for.
But, as the NBA trade deadline passed and the Thunder made significant moves, it seemed as though this was a moment worth noting. This is the beginning of the end. This is the time we will look back on and realize: Kevin Durant saw that the NBA is a business. He pretended, and the Thunder enabled him to pretend, that it was fun. That he and his buddies could hang out together forever. That they would be able to maintain this atmosphere, this environment, forever. That the fans would come all in blue and make it, in his words, a college-like environment.
But this was the day when that all changed. His own words prove it. First he termed it a hard day and just three hours later, he was claiming how deathly quiet the team bus was. These are the kinds of ways Kevin Durant wears his heart on his sleeve.
Years from now, when people look back on this era of basketball history, this might be the moment they start to see a change in Durant.
There is, of course, one thing that can stop this. If new-arrival Kendrick Perkins plays out of his mind and the Thunder go on a tear and the team makes the Western Conference Finals and make it to the NBA Finals and (maybe, maybe, maybe) win that will change things. Winning makes everything OK. Everything.
If the Thunder start to compile those precious wins, Durant should stay. If not, ten years from now people will look back and see that— however brilliant Sam Presti is—he made a mistake in trading away Kevin Durant's friends by robbing him of his belief that things could be the way he thought they were.