After Westbrook and the Thunder dominated Durant’s Warriors in a Thanksgiving eve showdown that both pitched as “just a regular game” but was absolutely and exceptionally Not “Just A Regular Game,” Wanda Durant, Kevin’s mom, made it clear that she has absolutely no idea what all the fuss is about! From Chris Haynes of ESPN:
“It’s OKC,” Wanda Durant said. “It’s the same atmosphere that they’ve always had, so we wouldn’t expect anything different. I just think it’s too hyped. It’s just basketball. Not even as a fan and being here and watching both of them, I really don’t get it. But it is what it is.” […]
“I just think it’s a lot of unnecessary hype around all of this, really,” she told ESPN. “It’s just a game. It’s basketball. So, I don’t know. I’ll be glad when it’s over because it’s really unnecessary. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.”
Now that we have clarified that it is, in fact, what it is, I must respectfully disagree with Ms. Durant. Her son and his former teammate play a lot of basketball games. They do not do this every night:
All parties involved would like to insist that the persistent trash talk and interactions we saw on Wednesday don’t differ at all from the garden-variety competition on display every night around the NBA. But that just doesn’t pass the smell test.
Yes, Westbrook’s always looking to tear the rim down, and Durant’s been known to pop off at opponents from time to time, but this was a specific fire, one that still seems to be fueled by the enormous amount of tension and emotion left in the wake of Durant’s decision to leave Oklahoma City to join the Warriors in the summer of 2016. The overall atmosphere might not be as venomous as it was during Durant’s first return trip to OKC last season — Warriors head coach Steve Kerr termed the vibe in Chesapeake Energy Arena “civil” — but the interactions between the former All-Star running buddies does not seem to have chilled out even one little bit.
It makes sense that Durant’s ready to be done talking about the circumstances of his exit, the status of his relationship with Westbrook, and all the other unpleasantness that cropped up after he chose to leave. (“You can’t let emotion seep into business, man,” he said after Wednesday’s game.) A year later, though, the fundamental flaw in Durant’s insistence that there’s no beef holds true: when you end a relationship, you don’t get to decide for someone else how they feel about it.
“It’s not about me and Russ,” Durant told Haynes. “It’s about the Thunder and the Warriors. Myself and Russ are competing out there. That’s part of the game. It’s basketball. It’s not about us. We’re just playing the game, and trash talking is part of it. That’s all it is.”
Durant can keep saying this until the heat death of the universe. It will never get any easier to believe.
Maybe it’d be “just basketball” and “all it is” if we were talking about two guys who’d barely had any relationship, who didn’t spend eight years together, and who didn’t (in Durant’s words) “grow up together.” Maybe we’d believe the “nothing to see here” take if we weren’t talking about a tandem that came within one win of a return to the NBA Finals after five years of frustration and failure before Durant left, and whose relationship seemed to go from “brotherhood” to text-message breakup awfully fast.
Maybe we’d buy it if not for the cupcakes, the cupcake hats and the cupcake sneakers. Maybe it’d be easier to accept if not for the burner accounts and the message-sending insoles. Maybe it’d hold up to scrutiny if Durant himself wasn’t so adamant that all the good stuff about his time in Oklahoma City — the relationships, the milestones, the memories — will “last forever.”
“That stuff is way, way more important than a championship,” Durant told Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher for a recent feature. “Me and my family didn’t just erase those eight years in OKC.”
But with that good must come the bad; no matter how much you’d like to, you don’t get to choose which memories last forever and which don’t. I get why Wanda Durant says she’ll be “glad when it’s over” between KD and Russ. I just don’t get why none of them seem willing to acknowledge that it’s not over, and that it might never be.
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