With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook together, the Oklahoma City Thunder were a contender, the third best team in the NBA by the end of last season.
Then Durant chose to leave and go to the second best team, the Golden State Warriors.
At his press conference Thursday in the Bay Area, Durant talked about breaking the news to Westbrook.
“Obviously, it’s tough. We were teammates for so long and had a lot of great memories and I’m sure he wasn’t happy about the decision, but he respected it as my friend. The relationship is great. We had great years man. It’s something that you’ll never take away from us. But like I said, I wanted a new chapter in my life. I felt it was time for it.”
Westbrook likely will say something similar when he talks about it down the line.
Of course, all the questions Westbrook are going to get will have a lot more to do with whether he will follow Durant out of town, or if he wants/expects to be traded.
Kevin Durant had earned the right to choose where he wanted to play in the NBA. He had honored his contract with Oklahoma City, he was a free agent.
He chose Golden State — a move that has come with a lot of criticism in some corners. Durant has been called “weak,” “traitor,” and a “coward.”
When asked about that at his introductory press conference with the Warriors Thursday, Durant didn’t exactly shrug. But it was close. You can see some of the answers above, but here is what he said about feeling guilty about the backlash and if he has felt guilty.
“No. We live in this superhero, comic book world, where you’re either a villain or you’re a superhero in this position, and I know that,” Durant said. “I know I haven’t changed as a person. I don’t treat people any different because I made a decision to play basketball in another city.
“I understand the fans in Oklahoma City, and basketball fans around the world, are I guess upset. But like I said, I made a decision based upon what I wanted to do and how I felt. And it’s the best decision for me. I can’t really control how you feel. I’m sorry you feel that way. But I’m gonna continue to live my life, man. Life goes on.”
Durant also said that the hardest thing he had to do was call Sam Presti and Thunder management to say he was leaving, something that brought him to tears. But Durant said it was something he had to do.
He knew this reaction would come. He also saw what happened to LeBron James when he went to Miami — a couple of titles later, a lot of that backlash went away. This is America, where sports fans put an inordinate amount of importance in “rings” and Durant just made the move most likely to get him a few.
Dwyane Wade is the greatest player in Miami Heat history.
But that wasn’t enough to keep him. It wasn’t just money, it was what the money represented — respect. Wade felt he had sacrificed for the Heat and wanted to be paid back. Instead, they offered him less and less (reportedly a one-year, $10 million offer was the first one on the table from Miami). So Wade is headed to his hometown of Chicago. I talk about it in our latest PBT Extra.
Also, I’d still rather be the Miami Heat going forward.
With his move to Golden State, Kevin Durant heard it all — he’s taken the easy way out, he’s weak for not leading his own team and joining forces, even people calling him a coward.
Durant did not take the easy way out — he put more pressure on himself.
Aside the fact championship are never given away or easy (ask the Steve Nash/Kobe Bryant/Dwight Howard Lakers superteam), Durant goes to a team that has already won a ring — if the Warriors don’t win it all next season, KD will take the blame. Not Stephen Curry. This is a very different roster than the failed Lakers or other big teams — this should be the best shooting team ever — but that doesn’t take the pressure off him.
I talk about all of it — and the plight of the Warriors — in this latest PBT Extra.
After losing Dwyane Wade to Chicago, it seems likely the Heat will match this offer sheet. But now they have to make the call.
As has been expected, the Brooklyn Nets signed Tyler Johnson to a four-year, $50 million offer sheet just after the NBA’s signing moratorium ended at midnight, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
The Heat have three days to match the terms of the sheet to retain him – or lose him to the Nets.
The deal includes $18 million-plus and $19 million, plus “poison pill” provisions in years three and four of the deal designed to severely puncture the Heat’s salary cap and dissuade president Pat Riley from retaining Johnson.
The details of the “Gilbert Arenas rule” deal are this (he can only get the mid-level for a couple years):
Yr. 1: $5,628,000
Yr. 2: $5,881,260
Yr. 3: $18,858,765
Yr. 4: $19,631,975
If Miami matches, its salary cap hit would be the numbers above. For Brooklyn, the cap hit would be $12.5 for each of the four years of the deal.
This was a smart gamble by the Nets, a risk worth taking.
Johnson showed real promise for Miami in his first two seasons, part of a young core with Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, and Josh Richardson that is now both the present and the future for the Heat. Johnson is very athletic — he has serious hops — and is a combo scoring guard whose shot is improving. He’s a pesky defender. There’s a lot to like; Miami just would have preferred to have him for a little less money than they will need to pay now.
But expect them to pay it.