Right after the Golden State Warriors lost Game 7 of the NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Warriors owner Joe Lacob bluntly stated that the team will look to make adjustments right away:
Warriors owner Joe Lacob, on what's next for his team, said firmly on his way out of Oracle: "All I can say is I will be very aggressive."— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 20, 2016
It should come as no surprise then that the Warriors would pursue Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant this summer in the free agency period.
Back in February, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reported that Durant would be interested going to Golden State if he were to leave Oklahoma City this summer. Since then, things haven’t changed much — even with the Thunder advancing to the Western Conference Finals last month.
Last Monday, Durant was in Austin, Texas for the release of his latest signature shoe, the Nike KD9. He dodged most questions that asked about where he would like to play, etc., but he did say that any decision regarding free agency would be a "basketball decision."
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News then reported on Tuesday that Durant reiterated his preference to go to the Bay Area as his destination of choice, if he leaves — according to sources.
I can’t argue with Golden State being a sound basketball decision for Durant. The Warriors have won two straight Western Conference championships, have the two-time reigning MVP in Stephen Curry, and they won a championship just last season. Finally, given that their current starting small forward Harrison Barnes played poorly in the NBA Finals, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Warriors beef that position up with Durant as a replacement.
For those of you who are (still) KD2DC hopefuls, this isn’t what you are hoping for. And I get it. People want to see the superstar hometown kid come back to play for the hometown team, and lead it to a championship. It makes for a great story.
LeBron James made a decision in July 2014 to do just that, by leaving the Miami Heat to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he played from 2003-2010. James also happened to come from Akron, Ohio, which is about a 40 mile drive away.
In just two years, James turned the Cavaliers around from an under-performing, perennially draft-lottery bound team into the 2016 NBA champions. The fact that a Northeast Ohio native broke the city’s 52-year long wait for a Big Four sports league championship makes this story just that much better.
It is understandable that many Washington area fans want to see Durant do the same. He is from Prince George’s County, Maryland, a local suburb. He frequently attended games involving Washington area sports teams as a child and as an adult. And not unlike Cleveland, the Washington area hasn’t won a championship in any Big Four league since 1992 when the Redskins won the Super Bowl.
All of that said, Durant hasn’t been as connected to the D.C. area like James has been for Cleveland beyond high school. Durant went to college at the University of Texas at Austin, then played for the Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City franchise since 2006.
Meanwhile, James played for the Cavaliers for seven seasons before his four-year stint with the Heat. When James was "coming home," he wasn’t just coming back to play in his neck of the woods. He was returning to the organization and NBA fanbase where he played for many seasons.
In Durant’s case, the Wizards franchise doesn’t have that connection with him. He never played for a local team since he graduated high school. Furthermore, the Wizards had a disappointing season last year when they failed to build momentum from two straight Eastern Conference semifinals appearances.
This isn’t a knock on how good John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Marcin Gortat are — they are all great players. But it is harder to make a case that Washington will be a better basketball decision for Durant than Golden State or Oklahoma City, assuming that he wants to win as many championships as possible.
If Durant decides to write an essay on Sports Illustrated or The Players Tribune to announce that he will wear Monumental Red from 2016 until he retires, I will be as excited as anyone. And I do think that the Wizards will instantly become a better team because of his arrival.
A hypothetical lineup of Wall, Beal, Durant, Gortat, and Markieff Morris could be among the league’s best for years to come. But no one in this group would have championship experience. When James left to go back to Cleveland, he also came back with a couple championship rings from Miami.
However, just remember that if Durant signs with the Wizards in 2016, the storylines are not going to be exactly the same as James’ two years ago. They are two completely different situations, and Durant should not let any of this influence him over the next few weeks.