With Kevin Durant on the Golden State Warriors and Russell Westbrook stuck with the Oklahoma City Thunder, more and more continues to leak out about what went wrong and eventually lead to the biggest betrayal in sports since LeBron James’ The Decision.
Durant, viewed as the guy who would never abandon his small-market team for greener pastures, ran off to Golden State to join Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. Those guys aren’t just close friends, but guys who led a 73-win team to the Finals after taking down Durant’s Thunder despite a 3-1 hole in the Western Conference Finals.
Durant’s friendship apparently had an impact on Westbrook and the Thunder all season long, according to Adrian Wojnarowski on The Vertical Pod (via Ryan Phillips, The Big Lead):
I know Russell (Westbrook) was bothered by — and some other teammates were too — of, like, there was some knowledge there that Draymond (Green) was in contact with Kevin (Durant) all season long and they’re in a playoff series and I know there was some conversation around the Thunder team of ‘Hey man, this guy kicked Steven Adams in the nuts twice in this series and what are you doing hanging out with this guy? What’s the relationship? We’re trying to beat these guys.
Kidding aside (players don’t get hit with tampering), this doesn’t paint Durant in the best light. Viewed as a quiet, humble superstar and great teammate, a note suggesting Durant’s friendly vibes with his team’s biggest rivals hurt the Thunder is a bad look no matter how anyone paints it.
Heck, it paints a picture of “what could have been?” if Durant had gone out of his way to squash these concerns. He’s not an aggressive, in-your-face type guy, but he could have cut the buddy-buddy stuff if his teammates brought the concerns to light. Instead, Durant remained passive, on and off the court. Westbrook handled the offense and acted as Durant’s shield in the media, taking the blame as the guy responsible when things went wrong.
Now one has to wonder how in the world Durant will fit on the Warriors. He’s a villain now, the No. 1 target in a world where LeBron James is the hero. Sure, Westbrook might get traded and that’s interesting—but everyone’s favorite, humble superstar just lost his shield and might actually be the piece to blow up the Warriors, not help them.
Maybe this is all an angry leak by guys in Oklahoma City upset with Durant’s decision. Either way, the globe will have Durant under a microscope unlike anything he’s ever experienced.