As we all prepare for Kevin Durant's big homecoming game against the Wizards on Wednesday, there has been a lot of discussion on the effect that the Durant to the Wizards buzz has had on both parties. Specifically, whether or not all the talk about Durant joining Washington could become negative enough that it pushes Durant away.
Dan Steinberg tackled the issue head on in his piece on hype surrounding Wednesday's big game.
Indeed, Durant has been asked about coming home repeatedly in recent years - local kids as young as 4 have popped the question, he told USA Today, and his mom was asked the question on WRC this week. Durant usually manages to blandly deflect the issue, but not blandly enough to prevent more headlines and hashtags. Which is why some wonder if the current environment in Washington - the excitement and expectations - might do more harm than good.
"I'm kind of on the fence about it really," said Tim Mason, who recently photographed a fan in a Durant Wizards jersey roaming Verizon Center. "I feel like the hype about it may be something that would push him away from here."
"Sometimes you wonder, is D.C. going overboard in their recruiting of him, which might ultimately turn him off?" asked Kyle Weidie, the founder and editor of Wizards site Truth About It. "With it being so far down the road, and with how fast things can change in the NBA and in pro sports, a lot of it just seems disingenuous and cheap ... sort of creating an unnecessary frenzy."
As one who scours Twitter, Facebook and this site's comments for fun, I can vouch Weidie and Mason aren't the only two people in the world who feel this way about recruiting Kevin Durant. There are plenty of people out there worried all the talk will drive him away. If I had a nickel for every time someone suggested that maybe the Durant hype was getting out of hand, I'd be on the verge of a really great business model.
And let's be clear, the fear of ruining the chance to sign Kevin Durant is an understandable concern. Opportunities to sign an MVP as he reaches his peak don't come around often. Those opportunities are even rarer for teams that aren't in a mega media market and lack a long history of success. The Wizards can't afford to squander this chance by looking too desperate.
The good news is, there's no way the Washington Wizards, or their fans, will mess up recruiting Kevin Durant by wanting him too much. Here's why:
1. Kevin Durant isn't looking to be wanted
When Kevin Durant enters free agency in 2016, he has two choices: He can stay in Oklahoma City and get more guaranteed money from the Thunder, who can offer him higher raises than other teams in his new deal. Or, he can decide to take less money to come to Washington and be part of something "bigger than basketball" and possibly enter a better basketball situation like LeBron James did when he spurned the Heat's offer to go back home to Cleveland.
If Durant chooses to stay in Oklahoma, he'll have plenty of financial reasons to do so that will factor into his decision far more than whatever frenzy Durant has to deal with until the summer of 2016. If he's truly willing to leave that money on the table to make a run with the Wizards, what can anyone say that would drive him away?
2. There are things more annoying than being annoyed
Put yourself in Kevin Durant's shoes. Which would annoy you more?
- Putting up with Wizards rumors for two years longer than you should have to, or putting up with Kendrick Perkins for two years longer than you have to?
- Having a four year old ask you if you're going to the Wizards, or watching the team you play for use a first round draft pick specifically on a player that they could keep in the D-League for the entire season?
- Dealing with the Durant to the Wizards frenzy for the next two years, or dealing with Dion Waiters for the next two years?
- Watching talking heads debate whether you'd do better in Oklahoma City or Washington, or watching your team trade away James Harden because they didn't want to pay the luxury tax?
But hey, that's none of our business.
All we know is that if Kevin Durant does come to D.C., however frustrating the next two years might be, the years that follow will be well worth the struggle. Just look at how excited the fans were at this watching party hosted by Come Home KD and Wiz Happy Hour when the Wizards played the Thunder in Oklahoma City last month. If fans can get that excited just to start envisioning what it would be like to have Durant with the Wizards, think how much more fun it could be in two years.