TULSA — At least Thursday’s game against Memphis wasn’t in Spain, or Dallas.
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s 110-94 loss to the Grizzlies at the downtown BOK Center was moderately interesting because it was a real NBA preseason game, if there is such a thing, and it was a home game, sort of.
The Thunder got a big lead early, then got sloppy and faded. OKC did fall to 0-2 in the preseason (1-3 if you count the Spain trip) as Billy Donovan searches for lineups, but other than a moneymaking 17,022 fans packing into this once-a-year home away from home, it was largely meaningless.
The Thunder truly come home Sunday, a preseason game inside Chesapeake Arena against Minnesota. And, of course, the season doesn’t start for real until Oct. 26 at Philadelphia.
All of which pales in comparison to Nov. 3.
That’s when all the rhetoric from Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut, Paul Pierce and just about anybody else that wants to put their two cents in boils over.
That’s when OKC visits the Golden State Warriors.
This thing has taken on a life of its own.
This isn’t football, where players talk once a week or so. This is basketball, and the parties involved — heck, parties not involved in the least, like Pierce — have an endless platform from which to opine.
Durant answers a question at a fan forum, so somebody asks Westbrook about it. Westbrook answers, and somebody goes back to Durant for a reaction.
Then, Pierce is asked in a radio interview what he thinks, and he speaks his mind about Durant chasing jewelry.
Then Green gets asked about his new teammate and the fateful series between the teams and the ensuing free agency that landed Durant, and of course Green stops punching people below the belt long to answer.
Almost all of this happened in about 48 hours.
Nov. 3 can’t get here fast enough.
Durant’s comments, which included the rare retrospective that he was “glad” his future teammates lost Game 7 of the NBA Finals to Cleveland (because it spurred his decision to go west, see?) came Monday night at Stanford University, where the Warriors were presented by the Stanford Graduate School of Business with a prestigious business award. At the event, majority owner Joe Lacob brought GM Bob Myers, veteran Andre Iguodala and Durant with him, and afterward, they spoke to a crowd of about 500 in a forum setting.
“It felt like it was a perfect fit,” Durant explained to the crowd about his July decision. “It was something I was searching for when I sat down and talked to these guys. I wanted to see if what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen on the outside is really true. Do these guys really genuinely love each other?
“They work together. You hear ‘family’ a lot. That’s just a word sometimes, but this is really a lifestyle here. You can feel it when you walk in the door, in the practice facility, everybody is just together. That’s something that I can appreciate as a basketball player and someone who values relationships.
“You can tell that that’s what they stand on, that’s what we stand on. I feel really grateful to play for a team like that and play with a bunch of players who are selfless and enjoy the game in its purest form. They make it about the players, they make it about the environment, so it was really an easy choice.”
So, is that a perfectly tame praise of his new team? Or a veiled shot at his old team?
Or maybe Durant just doesn’t realize that word can hurt.
At shoot-around ahead of Thursday’s preseason game, Westbrook was asked about Durant’s comments about his new selfless teammates.
“That’s cute, man,” he said. “That’s cute. My job is to be able to worry about what’s going on here. We don’t worry about all the selfish guys we got over here, apparently. So we’re gonna figure that out.”
Westbrook — who seemed to say all he wanted to say with the Nike commercial that pronounced, “Some run away. Some make runways” — was asked if it’s hard to not take anything Durant says as a slight.
“I don’t care,” Westbrook said. “To me, it doesn’t matter. My job is to worry about here. Honestly, I’m really tired of talking about it. So, any time anybody asks me another question, I’m just not gonna answer. Just FYI. I’m not talking about it no more.”
Naturally, Westbrook’s comments were taken back to Durant, who was preparing for a game Friday against Denver.
“Whatever I say is gonna get twisted up,” Durant said. “So I can’t — I’m just gonna say how I feel from now on. People that know me know what I mean. So it is what it is. Anything I say will be twisted up and be a headline. So it is what it is.”
It also is what people think it is.
Bogut, the erstwhile Warrior big man who’s now learning about life in Dallas, said he figured out a long time ago that Durant would join Golden State.
“That’s part of the business,” Bogut told ESPN.com. “I think the deal was done long before the summer. I think it was done — obviously, KD didn’t make his concrete decision, but I think our organization knew for a while that it was going to happen. That’s just part of it. Andre (Iguodala) and I knew that it was one of us that was going to go, and it was me. That’s part of the business. I have no gripes about it. You get a hall of famer … in KD, if I’m the GM, I do the same deal.”
It may be just business and the way of the world today, but some old school players are still dismayed. Pierce already had been vocal about Durant’s flight from OKC. Thursday, he sounded off again on Sirius XM satellite radio.
“Today’s day and age, a lot of these guys are friends,” Pierce said. “That’s like if (Larry) Bird decided to go play with Magic (Johnson) or something. These guys — I think the competition makes the game what is.
“And Oklahoma (City), I felt like, was a contending team. They had Golden State on the ropes. I understand when you have great players on losing teams who are tired of losing, struggling in the playoffs every year. You’re the lone star. I’ve been in that position. I could have left Boston years ago, but I stuck it out. I just feel like when you’re that close, as a competitor, you don’t go join the team that just put you out.
“That’s just me personally, but we’re living in a day and time where there’s a new generation. Guys, I don’t think they are as hungry or competitive as my generation was, and that’s why you’ll probably see more of that.”
Green was asked later Thursday about all the comments about Durant.
“I just wonder at what point do they get bored talking about the same thing,” Green said. “You got all these guys talking. Like (Paul) Pierce today, like, dude nobody cares what you did or who you did it for. Just give it a break. Everybody’s got something to say and wants to take everything he says and twist it. Like, he plays with the Warriors. OKC has their team, we have our team. He left there. Nobody complains when somebody leaves Apple and goes to Google. Aren’t they in competition with each other?”
The Thunder lost to Memphis on Thursday night, but in the war of words between Durant and Westbrook, Westbrook just regained the lead.
So there’s the summary, the update, the latest. All the complaints and reactions and opinions that are fit to print.
More to come tomorrow, right?
Think about it: If all this angst was wrung in just the last 48 hours, how much more can be delivered over the next three weeks?
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard on The Franchise Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. every weekday with co-host Lauren Rew and most mornings on The Franchise in Oklahoma City. Listen on fm107.9, am1270 on the 107.7 Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page.