So Oklahoma City’s old friend has moved on once again. Not even three years after spurning the heartland of America for the Bay Area, Kevin Durant announced his intentions of signing with the Brooklyn Nets.
It was a move that should not have shocked anyone. Durant’s legacy of being a wandering basketball player — more on that later — was set in stone July 2016.
Many people predicted Durant’s time with the Golden State Warriors. Predictions backed by bitterness or logic. Each with the same results.
So with that, I thought it would be a good chance to make a few predictions about Durant’s time in Brooklyn.
1) Kevin Will Not Enjoy Watching Basketball From Afar
This prediction is more of a generalized thought that could have applied to Durant if he had stayed with the Warriors — actually, it may have been worse.
Athletes have been open about how injuries make them feel distant from their team. Physically and emotionally, the discomfort of not being able to perform, rehabbing with trainers in different rooms away from teammates and the unknown factors ahead swell in the mind of any player.
Durant will be playing in a new city. His team will be led by another All-Star in Kyrie Irving. The successes that Irving and company enjoy this season will no doubt affect Durant one way or another.
It is well documented at this point that Durant wants multiple things at once:
- He wants to play basketball — that’s gone this year.
- He wants to be “the guy” — that’s gone from this year and who knows thereafter.
- He wants the fans to acknowledge him as the alpha — who knows if Irving is embraced for his play this season by the suddenly large Nets fanbase.
- He wants to have fun — Uhh.. did anyone watch the Irving era in Boston unfold? Yes, they’re friends but so were Durant and Russell Westbrook.
It will be interesting to see how a year away from basketball will affect Durant. Hopefully he is able to bounce back strong in 2020-21 for his and the world of basketball’s sake. You never want to see a guy go down. Let alone a guy who will be in the top 10 players of all time if he can return healthy.
2) Kevin Will Need to Accept Teammates Have Lives
In perhaps a more obscure prediction, Durant’s personal life has now played a heavy role in his departure from two different franchises. As he enters his thirties — along with his new teammates in Brooklyn — Durant’s life off the floor will need to mature to avoid another future breakup with a new franchise.
Make no mistake, it is awkward to write the words, “life off the floor will need to mature” about another human being I know little to nothing of outside of basketball. But Durant himself has said how his relationship with Westbrook was altered and “split apart” during the OKC days due to Westbrook’s marriage and circle of family and friends.
“He already had a stable life. He had stable parents, a girlfriend through college. I didn’t have none of that stuff. I’m trying to find out who I am, which I didn’t know, which is not a bad thing. He knew who he was. So obviously we’re going to grow toward this way (splits arms).”
Durant went on to say how it wasn’t a bad thing the two split apart. He’s right. These things happen in life when you become an adult. Old friends drift away but they are still friends. But it no doubt played a role in Durant believing he was no longer on par on a human level with his closest teammate in Oklahoma City. This led to the odyssey of Durant needing to find himself off the floor.
Fast forward three years later, Durant leaves Oakland.
In the wake of his departure, Marcus Thompson of The Athletic dropped this feature where it revealed that Durant was never able to feel like one of the guys with Golden State. Steph Curry had a family, Draymond Green had a child and even Durant’s entrance into Oakland was always going to make him carry the “hired gun” vibe.
So these things affect him. His new teammates in Irving and DeAndre Jordan have girlfriends and lives outside of basketball. Jordan even has a child he has joint-custody over. Perhaps the friendship between these three is more pure than Durant’s time with the Thunder and the Warriors and this all won’t matter. Maybe Durant will mature with more time.
3) Uhh… did anyone watch the Irving era unfold in Boston?
Kyrie Irving’s time in Boston was a disaster.
He killed the mood of an established-yet-developing locker room. He helped orchestrate the ultimate turning of the tables between Boston and Brooklyn. He failed at being the leader in the locker room.
So yeah, let’s put him in the same locker room with Durant. Forget the basketball — which relies on a few best case scenarios in order to work at this point — that’s a hell of a podcast.
Irving’s personality has shown to be susceptible to wander as much as Durant’s career in the last three years.
Does a multi-year All-Star just hand over the reigns in 2020-21 to Durant? If Irving succeeds in his season without Durant, does Durant feel those same feelings he apparently felt during his run with Golden State? What if Durant comes back a shell of his former self athletically — will Irving then become the alpha? How Will Durant feel about that?
Of all the players Durant could have been great friends with, Irving presents the largest “uh-oh” factor. It could work beautifully or it can crash and burn. Two emotional players are now gifted the keys to a franchise still trying to find its footing in the league.
4) Durant Will Feel More At Home in Brooklyn
For the first time, Durant will be playing basketball in the Eastern Conference. In a career where he has played and lived in Seattle, Oklahoma City and the Bay Area in California, Durant is now closer to his side of the country.
Durant grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Brooklyn is just over four hours away from his old stomping grounds down I-95.
After years of being an outsider — trying to please everyone in OKC — trying to fit in with the Warriors — Durant is now in a more familiar territory. This should help alleviate some of the stresses that come with not playing basketball for a season, rehabbing and watching his friends and teammates receive praise without him.
Prepare yourselves for the, “I’m home” pieces. OKC fans, prepare yourself for the, “The vibes in the other places I played are nothing like they are here,” lines.
5) This Won’t Be Durant’s Final Stop
This shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Durant’s wandering legacy goes back all the way to his childhood. Moving from school to school, choosing to go play college ball in Austin, Texas 1500 miles away, his NBA career.
If predictions 1, 2 or 3 occur, this will lead to a Durant with similar feelings when he left his last two destinations. He will remain a man searching for whatever it is he feels he needs. He has championships, scoring titles, the respect of his peers (for the most part) — his legacy is secured.
But now he has a health concern moving forward. Now he doesn’t have the flexibility and freedom he enjoyed signing one-and-one deals with the Warriors. The Nets now sort of hold his future in the balance. If he isn’t the same player he once was on a four-year $164 million dollar contract, how do the Nets view him in year 2, year three?
If he returns healthy, the Nets are not a clear cut favorite to win the title in the same vein as Golden State when he signed with them. Perhaps Durant will even give the OKC return more of a look in a few years as a philosophical burying of the hatchet. Regardless, the where is unimportant here, it is the when.
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. Follow him on Twitter @BradyDoesSports