All of you have read Kevin Durant’s take on last year’s visit to D.C. First let me say, fans gonna fan however they see fit and there isn’t a player in the NBA who doesn’t know that and accept it for what it is. Verizon Center media personnel airing a promotion featuring Durant photoshopped into a Wizards uniform is something else. That is where the word ‘disrespectful’ coming out of Durant’s mouth needs to get attention from Ernie Grunfeld and company.
I can’t think of a quiet, high-profile free agent’s sensibilities without thinking of the Orlando Magic’s pursuit of Tim Duncan back in 2000. With three players under contract and the draft rights to Mike Miller, the Magic brass had dreams of a Big 3 featuring Tim Duncan, Tracy McGrady, and Grant Hill. They spared no expense in their wooing of Hill and Duncan. From buying out first class cabins, limousines, lavish parties, private access, to lavishing personal attention on them the whole way, Rich DeVos and company pulled out all the stops. But Tim Duncan wasn't that kind of guy.
He wasn't interested in being surrounded by Disney characters, he'd rather ride a jetski out on the lake. He wasn't interested in the cold cuts buffet, he wanted Wendy's.
The Spurs? The Spurs knew their audience and Duncan re-signed, ultimately unmoved by Orlando's flash. He liked the small town feel of the only place he had ever played pro ball, but even so:
"It was probably a lot closer decision than people even think," Duncan said. "David [Robinson] was here, and that was great. But even beyond that, the staff, the coaches, guys I was comfortable with, guys I enjoyed being around is probably what swayed it in the end."
It's funny how history repeats itself. Sixteen years after Tim Duncan became a Spur for life, another quiet, historically dominant All-Star is set to enter free agency and just like the Magic had to, the Wizards must do their homework. It starts with listening. No special attention from the VC announcers, no banners fabricated by a team source, no photoshops. Not only is it not enough to pull out all the stops, going for broke is the wrong move.
'The right intent but the wrong message' can be attributed to most every failed pursuit between two interested parties. We can celebrate the team we have (which is nearing the ballpark of the best we've ever seen) and set the tone for the team we'd like to see in the same breath. By being vocal about his perceived disrespect, Kevin Durant is giving the Wizards an extra chance to get it right. When the margin of a victory may be as slim as a Wendy's hamburger, let's hope our favorite team is listening.