Opening Statements: Wizards vs Thunder, Game 43 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Thunder, Game 43

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Updated: January 21, 2015

Washington Wizards vs Oklahoma City Thunder - Jan. 7, 2013

We’re here to talk about Kevin Durant. The opponent. The enemy. A pox on all basketball infidels against Wizards nation who covet a human with a celestial aura in a uniform representing the midwestern United States, i.e., the Oklahoma City Thunder blues.

Thunder? Wizards, the kind that wear hats and wield wands, shit thunder, I imagine … if they wanted to.

Kevin Durant is back, and damn near shitting thunder himself. Some even picture him as a wizard of sorts. In 17 games, Durant is shooting a career high 55.2 percent from the field overall and a career high 44.7 percent from the 3-point line. He’s attempting about one less 3 and about three less free throws per game compared to last season.

Therefore, Durant’s 41.1 points scored per 100 team possessions this season is not a career high and ranks dead last amongst the 15 times in NBA history that a player has averaged over 41 points per 100 possessions (accomplished by seven different players, Durant twice—per Basketball-Reference.com).

Durant’s throwing lightning bolts in Oklahoma City, why would he ever want to leave?

Well, there could be a variety of factors—teammates, small market economics, Seat Pleasant, MD.

After beating the Heat in Miami on Tuesday night, the Thunder are 13-5 in games Durant has played this season, 16-8 since he made his debut on Dec. 2, and now 21-20 overall. Their winning percentage with Durant would be good enough for the third seed in the West. But, because of injuries to Durant and Westbrook to start the season, Oklahoma City is three games back of the 8-seed Phoenix Suns with 41 games left.

Plenty of time. More than enough time. Hell, 528 days from now—when Durant can potentially start negotiating a new contract with a new team—is enough time for his current team to win two NBA championships, cementing his legacy forever in the Sooner State (and perhaps making him never ever want to leave).

Sure, LeBron returned “home” (near Akron, OH) after winning two championships in Miami. But that decision was partially driven by guilt from him leaving home in the first place. Durant doesn’t have that guilt. He can simply love and be loved from afar.

Tonight, Kevin Durant is the enemy. He’s here to take down the Washington Wizards.

Here’s to John Wall—the real Wizards MVP—taking down the other team instead.

Joining TAI today is Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry), OKC Thunder beat writer for The Oklahoman, who will discuss how Thunder fans ain’t trying to study how Wizards fans are trying to study their MVP.

Let’s Easy Money, Sniper…


Teams: Wizards vs Thunder
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, District of Columbia
Television: ESPN/CSN
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 1.5 points


#1) The frenzy of Kevin Durant maybe, possibly, potentially returning near home to play professional basketball one day cannot be denied.

(Such is/will be a ‘topical’ column of Dan Steinberg in the Washington Post on Wednesday.) Personally, it makes me a tad uncomfortable—Wizards fans working themselves into a lather when the sporting landscape can change so quickly, and when it might simply be unrealistic, i.e., Durant seems much more down-to-earth than most stars and certainly seems capable of appreciating and loving “home” as much as ever while not playing for the NBA team in proximity.

I’m too embedded, and thus too exposed, to the whole ordeal. What’s the general feeling in OKC? Is it more out of mind, out of sight (until 2016), or is there genuine (and/or increasing) concern that he’ll bolt?

@DarnellMayberry: I don’t get the sense that the majority of people in Oklahoma are overly concerned with Kevin’s looming decision. From what I gather, most Thunder fans are much more concerned with their team making the playoffs this year in the short term and winning a championship in the long term. There certainly is a vocal minority that has a tendency to want to connect every win and loss, every trade and free agent signing and every penny spent versus penny not spent to whether Kevin will or will not stay. But most people in Oklahoma seem to be level-headed about the whole thing. They’re enjoying what they have while they have it and worrying about 2016 when it gets here.

#2) From a distance, Oklahoma City needs to make a significant, perhaps risky move to solidify contention and emerge out of a packed and competitive West. Team brass seems to recognize this by trading for Dion Waiters and going after Brook Lopez. How important is it that OKC adds another piece? And if not Lopez, then who?

@DarnellMayberryI don’t necessarily agree that the Thunder needs to add another piece. I certainly don’t agree that OKC needs to make a significant or risky move. When healthy, this is a team that, in my opinion, is the most talented team in basketball. The Thunder has journeyed to the conference finals three out of the last four years with the core that it has. Talent is not the problem. Of course, that has been a popular opinion since the team traded James Harden. But injuries derailed this team’s progress in each of the past two postseasons. The talent was there. Health simply was not.

Injuries aside, it’s things like inconsistency, poor discipline, attention to detail, trust, or lack thereof, and style of play that have held the Thunder back. Not a shortage of talent. In my opinion, the move for Waiters and the rumored Lopez deal have been misunderstood if not misportrayed. From everything I know about this team, its history, its stated plan and its patient philosophy for getting there, neither the Waiters move nor the rumored Lopez deal were desperate deals in an attempt to “win now.” Instead, they each represented examples of how the Thunder has long been shrewd and opportunistic when it comes to player acquisitions and other transactions that both maximize assets and improve the roster in the present as well as in the future. Seven years of searching for and pouncing on those opportunities when the time is right, while avoiding the knee-jerk or short-sighted transactions, is in part what has built this roster into the versatile power that it is. No reason to change now.

#3) The Internet continues to be the Wild West. And in the rapidly escalating economy of sports, we are at a crossroads in terms of player access—an inundation of (new) media; how said media (of all types) uses quotes for click-bait in hyper competition; and players themselves at times skirting the middlemen/people (if you will) and interacting directly with fans via social media.

This is, of course, a lead up to Russell Westbrook’s recent “antics,” if that’s what they are called.

Being a writer on the Thunder beat (who, yourself, has had “interactions” if you will, with Kendrick Perkins), what’s your take from 30,000 feet? And what did you think Berry Tramel’s column in response? (Would you have done the same thing?)

@DarnellMayberryI can’t believe the sports world has spent so much time and energy talking about one grown man telling another grown man “I don’t like you.” That’s my take. The whole thing was overblown in my opinion. Was it unusual? No doubt. But that wasn’t the first time Russell delivered a chilly postgame interview and it won’t be the last. We’ve known for years that Russell isn’t particularly fond of the media. He just provided confirmation. As for how Berry handled it, there’s more to the story. Russell had been supplying canned, concise answers for the previous week and a half. In practices and after games. Berry was the guy who finally decided to ask Westbrook what was up. That’s the background that most people don’t know. It had little, if anything, to do with Berry. He just happened to be the guy who came along and asked a surly star player a legitimate question that he didn’t like. And here we are. I thought Berry’s blog after the fact was fine. He attempted to shed more light on the subject and I thought he “executed” extremely well. I’m not sure what I would have done in that situation. But thanks to Berry, and the professionalism that he’s displayed throughout, I now have a pretty good blueprint.


READ:

TAI’s Conor Dirks pens a “TrueDC” piece for ESPN.com,
Grown-ups too: Wiz mature into contenders.” Go read it.

The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg wrote a column on the whole #KD2DC thing.
I was quoted in it. Go read it.

Westbrook to Durant Oop

 

KD2DC

 

 

Kyle Weidie on EmailKyle Weidie on GoogleKyle Weidie on InstagramKyle Weidie on LinkedinKyle Weidie on TwitterKyle Weidie on Youtube
Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.