On July 4th my Facebook feed had split personality syndrome. There were many friends were pragmatic about KD’s move to Golden State (the NBA is a business, I understand) and there were some that were not so positive on him turning his back on OKC (traitor taco, anyone?). How do I feel about the situation (and how should you feel as well)? Read on:
For me, sports is about cheering for people. I never want to cheer for a shirt. I like to understand what kind of person a player is and what makes him/her tick. KD is an excellent person. Besides giving 8 years to basketball in OKC, remember that when the Moore tornadoes of 2013 went through the community, KD donated $1 Million of his own money to the relief effort. He certainly did not have to do that, or invest his time in this community, but he did. That should not be forgotten. He made a home here and gave to the community.
There are some great athletes who are not great people. I don’t want to cheer for them. I’m thinking people like Lawrence Taylor (rape) or Dexter Manley (illiterate). Do you suddenly want to cheer for a person like that because they are wearing a specific shirt? At that point, you are cheering for a shirt and not a person.
KD is obviously an articulate, intelligent person. He well represented Oklahoma while he was here. I will be cheering for him and hope he finds what he’s looking for at Golden State.
Switching back to OKC, I put the blame for this squarely on Sam Presti and the Thunder organization. My guess is it will come out over the next few years, but we know nothing about what OKC offered. Did they offer a 2 year deal with a player option after this year (like Golden State) or did they try to strong-arm him and force him to take longer contract? They should be offering him a player option every single year — value your people. Make them feel wanted, not trapped.
Sam Presti has not done anything useful that I can think of in 5 years. The things he has done include trading Harden and trading Ibaka. How do you do that? How do you let your people know they are not that important? That if they don’t want to be here you will happily get rid of them? No wonder KD felt little loyalty to the OKC organization– he saw it with the actions the team took on his co-workers. We’d have the same feelings if the companies we work for devalued people and just treated people like butts in a seat. The churn at OKC is too high. Could it be that Presti did not understand how KD would feel about changing head coaches, churning his teammates? If Presti mis-read Durant there, that’s Presti’s fault.
Now there is talk of trading Westbrook, and Presti is dumb enough to do that, or at least allow the talk. Presti is simply too proactive as a GM. Westbrook is a superstar, and if he is leaves, especially by trade, OKC will not have a conference finals caliber team for another 20 years. Presti should make sure Westbrook is happy with his situation here — offer him a maximum contract that has player options on it for every single year. If Westbrook still leaves with that offer to him then so be it, but at least that will demonstrate to Westbrook that the Thunder organization values him with their actions, not their words.