OKLAHOMA CITY — New season, new team. New beard, too?
The thoughts regarding former Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant remains the same from Sam Presti.
Responding to Durant’s comments in the Wall Street Journal, Presti doubled-down on the stance he and the organization have taken since July 4th, 2016.
“I think we’ve been like 100 percent consistent relative to just the way we feel about him,” Presti said. “Recognizing his contributions to not only the team but the city. They’re monumental. I think we’ve said that consistently.”
The beautiful thing about Presti’s comments is that it keeps the door open for a potential Durant/OKC reunion. Maybe not a reunion in terms of Durant donning a Thunder jersey in his prime again, but for a time when both parties can acknowledge the good memories.
In the age of player empowerment and movement, organizations are more inclined to take the high road when their city is spurned by a generational talent. It is simply bad business to publically blast a former player. If you want good players to stay in town or come play for you, it’s best to not be Dan Gilbert mad.
The Thunder and Presti had to do their share of taking the high road this offseason with the trades of Paul George and Russell Westbrook. It is in the nature of the franchise to be thankful for the work of its former players.
“You know, what I can say is I’ve never made it a habit of getting into my personal conversations with our former players other than to say I feel really good about those relationships,” Presti added. “I think you can hear in my voice the way I feel about him (Durant). That hasn’t changed, and it won’t change.”
“I would just say this,” Presti said. “If there is anything that Kevin Durant ever, ever needed from me or from anyone here, it would be a moment’s notice for that to happen.”
It is easy to empathize with Thunder fans regarding their feelings towards Durant. That hurt and sporting betrayal will take years to move on from.
It is also easy to empathize with Durant. The hate and harsh reactions he now commands will take a while to move on from.
“I have nothing but positive things to say about him and his tenure here,” Presti added. “You can ask me that — you’ve asked me that in the past. You’ve asked me that today. You can ask me that in the future if something like this comes up again. I’m never going to change that tune because that’s how I feel.”
But when that time comes, the prodigal son of Oklahoma City can make his return to an organization who has extended an olive branch of peace since day one.
That is a good thing. Not just for the Thunder to move past a type of Grapes of Wrath legacy where their stars move on to greener pastures, but for a state whose main exports include a strong sporting tradition.
Like it or not, but Durant is very much a part of that tradition. He is up there with Wilkinson, Switzer, Thorpe, Sanders and even his old pal Westbrook. Like Presti said, Durant’s contributions to the city and state are monumental.
It will be a good day when Durant can look back on his time in Oklahoma City with a smile, both internally and externally. Until that day, Presti and the Thunder will continue to move on but leave the door open for good feelings to return to both sides.
Brady Trantham has covered the Oklahoma City Thunder for The Franchise since April 2018 and for Thunder Digest since 2016. He hosts a Thunder podcast with Madysson Morris “OKC-82 Podcast” which can be found on all podcast outlets, and is a featured co-host on the Franchise Thunder Insider’s Show on Saturdays from 10-12, in addition to weekly guest spots on “The Franchise Drive” on Tuesdays and “The Franchise Morning Show” on Wednesdays. For Sooner fans, you can also listen to the “Inside OU” podcast with John Hoover, Rufus Alexander and Brady. Brady is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma class of 2014. Follow him on Twitter @BradyDoesSports