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Kevin Durant is a Warrior.
Kevin Durant is rich.
Kevin Durant is an NBA champion.
So why is Kevin Durant so upset?
This should have been the Summer of Durant. He’s 28, a champ, on a team that could collect as many rings as he has fingers – on one hand, anyway. He should have had a fun-filled victory tour. Instead, he took a shot at Stephen Curry’s sneaker brand and authorized production on his own kicks that feature criticisms of him written into the soles. He could have slipped off the grid. Instead, he punctuated a cringeworthy offseason with a couple of tweets critical of his former team.
Durant’s tweets – a pair of replies to a Twitter user who criticized Durant for leaving Oklahoma to cherry-pick a championship – covered a lot of ground. He took shots at the organization, the roster and the coach, Billy Donovan. He declared he couldn’t win a championship with that team – despite being up 3-1 in the conference finals against a team that already did.
Durant has everything in front of him – so why is he still looking back? The Thunder aren’t. Oklahoma City was crippled by Durant’s decision to defect. A team built to compete for championships for years found itself with a roster that needed one of the greatest seasons in NBA history from Russell Westbrook just to make the playoffs. Yet the Thunder never criticized Durant. Publicly, they thanked him for everything he did for the organization. Privately, they did, too.
Besides – criticizing Durant for leaving was always kind of goofy. He was 27 and entitled to. Think a player needs to show loyalty? That’s a two-way street. Isaiah Thomas led a three-year turnaround in Boston that was capped by one of the most inspirational postseason runs in history. His reward: a first-class ticket to Cleveland.
Families show loyalty. Teams and players do not.
Reasonable people can see that. Yet social media can be an echo chamber for the unreasonable. Thunder fans aren’t interested in discussing the nine years Durant was in Oklahoma City. Not now, anyway. For now, they care about the next few years, when he is not. Durant will see tweets like this in his feed forever. How long before he stops responding to them?
Appearing at a tech conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, Durant was apologetic. When asked about the tweets, Durant admitted he went “a little too far.”
“I don’t regret clapping back at anybody or talking to my fans on Twitter,” Durant said. “I do regret using my former coach’s name and the former organization I played for. That was childish. That was idiotic, all those type of words. I regret doing that and I apologize to them for doing that.”
Still, you wonder: Why do it? Regrets? Probably not. Durant fit in seamlessly with Golden State last season, and his performance in the playoffs proved he was anything but along for the ride. He coexisted with Curry and would have been in the MVP mix had a knee injury not robbed him of a month’s worth of games toward the end of the season.
Yet Durant doesn’t shy away from reminding people of how tormented he was by his decision to leave the Thunder – and how hurt he was by the 140-character-infused reactions to it. In an interview with Modern Luxury, Durant described the Internet backlash in the aftermath of his decision as “more than I could take.” His manager, Rich Kleiman, recalled a near meltdown in a hotel in China when Durant called and asked Kleiman, “Why the [expletive] did you let me do this to my life?”
The Warriors will open training camp Friday and maybe then things will get back to normal. The sneaker tiff with Curry seems to have blown over, and by addressing the Thunder tweets he saves himself from having to later. But make no mistake: Many in Golden State, team officials and players alike, have taken note of Durant’s oddball offseason and are perplexed by it. They see a bright future for Durant in Oakland, league and team sources told The Vertical, and are bewildered as to why he is still addressing his past.
Oklahoma City will always be in Durant’s DNA, but it’s time for him to move on. Slapping around a team that was loyal to him, even in rejection, is a bad look. He’s a Warrior, and the possibilities for this Golden State team are endless. He can win championships, can win awards, can build one of the great dynasties in NBA history. The Thunder are doing their thing. Durant should forget about them, and do his.