A few weeks ago in Las Vegas, after Kevin Durant announced his commitment to play in the World Championships next summer for USA Basketball, he took questions from reporters as is customary in these situations.
Durant is always polite and professional to deal with, but as soon as a question was asked about the Thunder’s offseason, he responded by saying “I love it,” before walking away and ending the interview session.
It was clear then that Durant wasn’t thrilled that his team didn’t make any moves to improve, while others in the West like the Rockets and the Clippers appeared to be loading up for a run at Oklahoma City’s regular season crown.
Speaking more recently, however, Durant now seems confident in his team’s ability to contend next season as currently constructed.
The changing landscape of the Western Conference hasn’t changed Kevin Durant’s outlook on his team’s chances.
“It’s not about what other teams are doing,” Durant told The Oklahoman. “It’s about what we’re going to do every single game. That’s how we approach it.”
“People that really knew, as far as our money situation, knew that we couldn’t sign anybody too big,” Durant said. “We got myself, Russell (Westbrook), (Kendrick Perkins) and Serge (Ibaka) all locked in on big contracts so it’s kind of hard to sign (someone). Everybody wants us to get the biggest free agents, but it’s kind of hard to do that with the money that we have (committed) and the tax and the new CBA. So it was kind of difficult. But we knew the business side of it. But we know we have a really good team.”
It’s true the Thunder are still relatively stacked, and a healthy Russell Westbrook is better than any addition another team could have made.
But remember, while Kevin Martin was inconsistent at best off the OKC bench last season, at least he was someone who could occasionally (though randomly) be counted on to drop 20 points in a game. Martin left in free agency, and the Thunder were unable to replace him with a player possessing a similar kill set.
It’s likely Durant was initially frustrated by the summer’s turn of events. Now that the free agent frenzy is over and things have had a chance to settle down, he’s coming to terms with the way his team stacks up against the retooled competition.
The Thunder are still going to be a top team in the West next season. But there’s no question that the other teams have closed the gap.