As far as drama goes in probably the most anticipated regular season game since “The King’s” return to South Beach, Saturday’s match-up between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Golden State Warriors lived up to the hype and then some. From here, it appears the rematch on March 20th could make that game look like a love-in.
From a purely X’s and O’s perspective, the game came down to a bad bench rotation in the second quarter leading to a huge Warrior run that resulted in a 17 point, 43-26 blowout quarter in a 16 point Thunder loss. Thus is the world of a young basketball team in a league that doesn’t forgive lapses. When veteran teams’ shots stop falling they crank up the defense; when a young team’s shots fail, they tend to panic.
Funny fact about young teams however. They grow up, and this young Thunder team took a step in that direction when they came out of halftime and won the second half. Poo on the moral victory narrative if you will, but that is how young teams that panic in the face of adversity become veteran teams that grit their teeth and learn how to win when the going gets tough. One moral victory at a time.
Oklahoma City fans understand that and support their team on that journey. They have done it before, and the media called Chesapeake Arena the best home crowd in the NBA. The Thunder loud and faithful are doing it again, but now that same media is trashing them. Nothing has changed except that the media’s darling, Kevin Durant, who chose to walk away from OKC’s unconditional support, isn’t being worshiped the way the media thinks he should be.
Article after article have come out telling Thunder fans they should be grateful. That Durant put Oklahoma City on the map. Well guess again:
My great great grandfather and others like him “put OKC on the map” and they did so against great odds with only their neighbor to count on. Neighbors they can still count on, with nothing more than a handshake and their word. That has always been a part of the Oklahoma spirit. A willingness to give the shirt off your back in a neighbor’s time of need because you knew he would do the same for you.
That spirit carried this city and its people through droughts, depressions, devastating tornadoes and even terrorist bombs. It was a part of Oklahoma’s heritage before Kevin Durant was ever born and it will continue long after he is dust.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne wrote that Wanda Pratt was hurt by the Thunder fans’ reaction to her son’s return, but did Ramona check Andre Roberson’s mom’s reaction to this “classy” move by her hero?
Of course not. It wouldn’t fit ESPN, or a vast majority of the media in general, or her narrative of Durant as the innocent victim. That narrative which went to even more ridiculous levels of fiction in ESPN’s Chris Haynes’ post game write-up:
That miniature exchange exemplified Durant’s frustration in playing alongside Westbrook for those eight years with the Thunder. It was always, “I’m coming. I’m coming.” Meanwhile, the team wasn’t going anywhere.
What a crock. An NBA Finals and repeated conference finals are going somewhere, and in their final hours together, on a team that Andre Iguodala called the best team in the playoffs, it was Kevin Durant’s combined 22-62 shooting disaster in games 5 and 6 of the Western Conference Finals that kept the Thunder from actually getting there.
Later on Haynes writes:
A team source said Warriors coach Steve Kerr was the one who came up with the idea of switching Durant onto Westbrook in the middle of the third. Kerr had never before assigned Durant to a point guard. One of the players told ESPN it was a tactic that worked.
Westbrook couldn’t resist the urge to take it to his former teammate. The stage was too massive; the basketball world was salivating for it. He had to give the audience what it wanted.
According to ESPN Stats & Information data, Durant guarded Westbrook on a total of seven plays. Westbrook went 2-of-5 for eight points on those plays and committed one turnover.
What about it? Convenient oversight or just plain old cherry-picking? Could the explanation for missing this play be the juvenile taunt from Durant after a shot that cut a 21 point lead to 18? The play that lead to the “I’m coming” comment you were so offended by? Kicking an opponent when they are down is pretty much considered bad form in any sport, but taking the offended party to task for speaking up for themselves is really hitting below the belt.
Durant has seen how that movie ends on far too many occasions. He needed a change.
ROFLMAO! Thanks, I needed that.
STOP IT!! I can’t take any more! Whew!
It’s really very simple why Thunder fans cheer for:
and boo at:
It is the essential point that those who that think OKC owes Durant something are missing.
When Durant was doing his thing in a Thunder uniform, he was under contract. What was he going to do? Stink up the joint and be out of the league today? Not do the community service that he has parlayed into hundreds of millions in endorsements? No. He would have done the same in Indy or wherever. He played well and for his efforts he was showered with money, he gave to the community, and was rewarded with unconditional support throughout his years in OKC, even when he didn’t play well. It’s a wash, no one owes anyone anything.
Then came July 4th and the first opportunity to choose, and Durant chose the fastest bus out of town. A month later Westbrook, chose Oklahoma City. And that could have been the end of the story, with Durant leaving Thunder fans with hurt feelings because he led them to believe he was staying (over and over again) and he didn’t. But it wasn’t the end. Not by a long shot.
When Durant’s choice turned sour and his image began immediately taking hits, the PR spin to justify such a shocking new team for Durant to land began. Rumors about Westbrook, the OKC fans, the organization, and even Durant’s former teammates were thrown out there to see if anything would stick, all of which was leaked without any direct ties to Durant to allow plausible deniability. And when those PR spin attempts didn’t stick, Durant reversed course and said there was no reason for his departure other than he just wanted to play in Golden State. There was no drama and everything was just media hype. Fake news.
None of that matters to some writers that probably don’t like Westbrook or the Thunder in the first place, but to a passionate fan base that believes in standing by one another, that’s tantamount to declaring war.
I’m surprised Adam Silver hasn’t spoken in favor of the Thunder crowd’s passion, but then I have serious doubts about Silver’s commitment to small market teams to begin with. (in the video above, Durant clearly went after Roberson and yet both were assessed technicals. Unbelievable) I’ve read some writers call Oklahoma City fans a disgrace, but I will put their 100% attendance to home games supporting a young team struggling to make the playoffs up against Wizard fans’ 80% support of a team in the running to win the Eastern Conference, or a Piston crowd 69.8% home support of a team that has won multiple NBA championships any day.
Sure, the Thunder fans booed Durant just as loudly as they cheered Westbrook, but no one threw batteries, ala Cav fans upon Lebron’s return, no one threw beer. Big Rich Green had a few words with Durant...
Lotta drama near the Warriors bench with Big Rich pic.twitter.com/QPucJYSiot— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 12, 2017
.... but you’re left wondering what started the scene in the first place when Durant leans over the cop that had just settled the situation and taunts Big Rich instead of letting things cool off. (Remember, this is happening in the immediate aftermath of Durant’s confrontation with the quietest kid on the Thunder’s roster, Andre Roberson). Draymond Green claimed Big Rich used profanity. Big Rich says he didn’t because he knew it would get him tossed from the game. What Big Rich says is plausible, but in regards to Dray, I once saw him bury his foot 4 inches into a man’s scrotum and then claim afterward he didn’t know he did it...
Ouch. pic.twitter.com/pGieZ8z1D6— Bryan Terry (@bterryphoto) May 23, 2016
...and then not be suspended for one of the most heinous acts I’ve ever witnessed on the hardwood...because the NBA believed him?
So be it. I’ve seen this before. A young team with potential and heart getting little or no respect from the media or the league. They found a way. They embraced an us against the world mentality and eventually dethroned Bird’s Celtic dynasty and then Magic’s Lakers. They offered no apologies and took no prisoners. That team was Chuck Daly’s Detroit Pistons, the Bad Boys, and if you weren’t wearing a Piston’s uniform, you were the enemy.
The Thunder already have the perfect anti-hero in the person of Russell Westbrook to lead a modern day version of the Bad Boys and, considering certain events over the past nine months, it is something to consider. I’m not referring to the cheap shots from those long gone days, but the solidarity and commitment to one another that those Pistons embodied. Their take on all comers, show no fear approach to the game. I want to see the entire Thunder roster embrace Westbrook’s philosophy to dump that kumbaya Dream Team crap and play like there is no friend on the opposing bench.
It may already be in the works. When Westbrook glared at Durant and responded to his taunt after Oladipo’s 3, “I’M COMING!! I’M COMING!!!” the remaining Thunder rallied behind Westbrook:
Enes Kanter first, closely followed by Anthony Morrow, Victor Oladipo, and Domantas Sabonis. Durant shrugged it off, “you’re gonna lose,” he said. Tough words from the bandwagon man that couldn’t cut the mustard and ran off to join the team he couldn’t beat, but he knows Russell. He knows his words weren’t a prediction, they were a prophesy. Westbrook will mold this young Thunder team into his fire breathing image and raise their game one moral victory at a time and he will never, ever stop coming.
Durant chose to leave the Thunder and to play against Russell Westbrook. All I will say to that is a quote from an old Chinese proverb:
Be careful what you wish for...