(post edited- dedication added)
Over the past ten days, the one thing that has ticked me off more than anything was people telling me how I should feel about what Kevin Durant stole from Oklahoma City. That's right, I said stole. He knows what he did, his ex-teammates know what he did, and their silence in the past week or so speaks volumes. So this is not an attempt to tell anyone what they should think, I'm just giving you my take.
But before I let old Benedict go, I want him to take this with him:
Running off to China to avoid the backlash of his decision, BD is lamenting over the loss of his friendship with Russell Westbrook. Poor, poor, Kevvy.... well take heart, your new best buddy, Draymond Green, can ease your pain and take you bar hopping.
Jermaine Edmondson’s written statement to police on the alleged Draymond Green altercation: pic.twitter.com/ZIT94jRVBG— Ben Rohrbach (@brohrbach) July 13, 2016
That's right ladies and gents, the nut-buster has taken his assault and battery act public, complete with post-incident denial.
Note to the prosecutors in Michigan. Always remember when Green opens his mouth you can take whatever comes out of it with a grain of salt. This is the same guy that told Durant that the Warriors were a family while he was telling that "family" and NBA.com that this is a business and not long after the meeting at the Hamptons the Warriors kicked all non-family members to the curb. Additionally, this is the same guy that swore he had no idea that he had wrapped Steven Adam's scrotum around his right leg in game 3 of the Western Conference Finals:
NOOOOOOOO pic.twitter.com/6aW6yHX21I— Deadspin (@Deadspin) May 23, 2016
Yeh, old Mr. Grinc.... err Green, he can think up a lie and think it up quick.
Now you boys go have your fun, but I would suggest not doing it around these parts.
Okay!! I admit it! I had a few more demons to vent, but now I'm ready for some....
After being burned hitching his cart to the Benedict Durant train, Presti is faced with a decision about his remaining superstar, Russell Westbrook. What to do? WHAT TO DO?!?! Or in other words, paraphrasing the Bard, to trade or not to trade, that IS the question.
Not to trade!
Sure, I know the safe play is to move Westbrook if he doesn't give a firm commitment that he is staying. That being left holding the bag twice and watching superstars leave without getting anything in return is tantamount to suicide. Screw it Sam, it's Oklahoma! Tornado Central, I'm with you, we'll jump together bro! Run with this thing and see where it goes. Every Thunder fan is salivating at what will happen when Russell Westbrook gets a shot at some payback, and I hope you don't take that away...no matter what.
NewsOK's Berry Tramel wrote yesterday that trading Westbrook would be like cannibalism, and Presti should trade Westbrook only if he had no doubt about his desire to leave. Close, but no cigar Berry. Forget that. (note I used the nice F word there so feel free to substitute).
My advice to Presti, paraphrasing the Bard again, would be thus:
Durant would kill thee,
But thou yet hast Westbrook; there are thou happy
Let Russell finish what he started and let him have this next season unhindered with the debate of whose team it is. He's earned that, his fans yearn to see it, and contrary to popular belief, the Thunder will get something out of it no matter what Westbrook decides to do next summer. Allow me to elaborate.
The cupboard once barren becameth thy friend
And offers expectation; there art thou happy
I am convinced that Steven Adams is destined to be a star. I cannot stress enough that we have yet to see him peak and everything in my being says he is fully capable of being the face of this franchise one day. The poise he showed by not retaliating in the Western Conference Finals in the face of one of the most diabolical deeds in sports history since Tonya Harding paid someone to break Nancy Kerrigon's leg was truly amazing. Adams and Westbrook are the rocks to build a franchise on and not the faithless one that stood by and did nothing after Green's treachery.
I have to believe the Cameron Payne selection had to have been a contingency for a Westbrook departure. Give Payne another season behind Russell before he is thrown into the fire. Remember Presti, there is no ceiling on Cameron Payne. You believed it when you drafted him, so don't run for cover on him now. Patience will earn interest if you give Payne time to grow.
Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis are the first round picks everyone thinks you should trade Westbrook for. A true two-way shooting guard and a big man who has the bloodlines of a champion and the heart that comes with it. With Westbrook, this team can make the playoffs. There is NO substitute for being there and there is no better man to show these two how to properly prepare for battle than Russell. Ask Enes Kanter.
Sign Dion. He was born to be a sixth man and he's a tiger. Show him loyalty and he will be something special.
#FreeAnthonyMorrow. The eleventh best 3 point shooter of all time deserves his day in the sun. Get Singler's head fixed. Find him a shrink and a good barber.
A pack of blessings lights up upon thy back;
Happiness courts thee in her best array;
The change that threaten'd death becomes thy ally
Thy coach proved not false; there art thou happy:
If Billy Donovan proved nothing else last season, it was that he could take chaos and turn it into a winner. This roster can score points even without Durant. We saw that two seasons ago. Donovan can take that and run with it and turn this season into something special if Presti will let him. Billy the Kid walked away from a solid situation at Florida when he trusted Presti and came here, now it is time for Presti to return the favor. Sam, Donovan's left arm walked away, please don't compound his burden and cut off the right.
Presti put a lot of eggs in the basket Durant stole on July 4, and unlike Durant, Westbrook has never said he wanted to retire here and see his jersey hanging from the rafters at Chesapeake Arena...but that doesn't mean Presti should let him walk without a fight. I have no delusions that Russell would sign an extension out of the goodness of his heart; Durant stole that too, but hopefully Westbrook is smarter than KDumpmyteam and submarine my image Durant.
I would approach Russell next season from a purely business perspective and in this case the business is endorsements. Gone are the days when someone has to actually live in a city to have an impact there. Social media and supersonic transport has solved that problem. Russell wants to make his mark in fashion. Why settle for one coast or the other when he can have both?
Surely someone (cough, cough, George Kaiser, cough, cough) could afford to invest in a Cessna Citation X, the fastest private jet on the planet, and conveniently not use it from October til say.... October. I mean the doggone thing is just sitting there. Russell could do the owner a big favor and use it whenever he wanted... for upkeep purposes of course. The fastest point guard on the planet in the fastest private jet? I don't know, maybe with a customized paint job of the owner's favorite player.... might be appealing to a certain target group.
(tell me this wouldn't be a sweet way to show up at LAX... or circling Manhattan just before touching down at LaGuardia)
Then I would remind Westbrook there are two things a buying public just can't seem to resist: heroes and underdogs. They eat it up and if Russ stayed, he would represent both in their eyes and he could reduce the endorsement gap between he and Durant very quickly. Welcome to Loud City's Jeff Linka suggested the Thunder give Russell and his design team the job of re-branding the Thunder. With Nike stepping in to produce all the uniforms in the NBA starting in 2017-18, and rumblings that Nike would like the Thunder to move toward a less vanilla image, the Thunder can offer Westbrook an opportunity with Nike no other team can, not just a face on an ad in a magazine, but as a true design partner.
Linka pointed out it would be hard to envision the league being much of a problem in the wake of the Warriors signing Green's new BFF, and right on cue, Adam Silver came out firmly against the signing. I am going to take this opportunity to point out to Mr. Silver that had the league done what they said they were going to do after the game 3 Green/Adams incident and not ignored Green's antics in game 5 and suspended him for game 6, we wouldn't be in this mess in the first place. Just saying...but I digress.
Roll this one around.... "Why Not" meets "Just Do it." It sounds like an ad campaign in the making already, but what do know, I'm just a lowly blogger..... and consumer.
Finally, I would start on Westbrook today, as in right NOW. We saw what respecting space gets you, an empty sack, so I'm sure Russell would understand a more proactive approach to his upcoming free agency.
Just to be clear, it may add up to nothing. Russ is newly married... I'm married, have been for 32 years come July 20th. Durant just thought he was pressured by his inner circle. Presti is married, he knows and would be wise to start winning points by including Russ's boss... err I mean vivacious better half, in the process. You married readers out there know what I mean.
(sorry Russ.... I couldn't help it...)
All kidding aside, I am actually very serious about this starting now thing. Let's face it, Sam Presti has some serious apologizing to do. He backed the wrong horse in this race. He will have to throw himself at the mercy of the court to have any chance to win Russell's complete trust and June will be too late to start.
However, either way it goes, Russell stays or Russell goes next summer, the Thunder are better off keeping him through next season.
Result #1: Russell stays
Obviously Russell staying would be the best outcome and I hope Presti can convince him that staying would reap a lifelong and even possibly multi-generational benefit that Kevin Durant was too narrow minded to see. Let Billy Donovan and Russell fully put their stamp on this team and when that salary cap explodes next summer, bring in the final piece. Be THE player in free agency next summer and make it happen. Durant left a ton of money behind to play with.
Result #2: Russell leaves
The young players that got their first taste of the playoffs get more seasoned by a second helping next year and the new guys get to dip their toes in the water. I said it before, but it merits repeating, there is NO substitute for actual playoff experience. Russell virtually guarantees that priceless experience and that is worth more than I think Presti could get in a trade motivated by panic. Let the piranhas wait to pick at our bones until we are better suited to fight back and besides, if Russell leaves all that money behind and all the young talent I mentioned earlier, coupled with the money Durant dropped, my guess is somebody out there would be smart enough to swoop in and pick it all up.
(again Russell.... I'm so sorry about that one pic..... It was Sherman! JA Sherman made me do it.....the plane was cool though? Right?)
This post is dedicated to a young reader who opened my eyes to the fact that there is a segment of young Oklahoma City fans out there that were ages 7 through 12 when the Thunder came to town that are feeling the sting of Kevin Durant's decision more acutely than I am. I had written a post prior to this one that I am not proud of. I stand by every word of it, but this young reader reminded me that those young fans that may read what I write don't need some old fart like me adding to their pain. They needed a light at the end of the tunnel and to be assured that the cup is always half full and not half empty. This one was for you Jerry Stephens III, thanks kid.