When Scott Brooks returned to Oklahoma City, he got a standing ovation. When Serge Ibaka returned to Oklahoma City, he got a standing ovation.
Kevin Durant ain’t getting a standing ovation Saturday night.
“When Kevin Durant comes back, Kevin Durant will get booed,” former NBA player and current Thunder studio host Antonio Daniels said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I honestly believe that. The reason I say that is this: Scott Brooks got fired. Serge Ibaka got traded. Kevin Durant made a choice to leave. I’m not saying that I have an issue with that. I’m speaking from the Oklahoma City Thunder fans’ point of view here. Choosing to leave is different than being fired or being traded, especially when you are Kevin Durant.”
Durant played in Oklahoma City for eight years, during which he led the Thunder to six playoff appearances, four conference finals, and one NBA Finals.
How quickly fans forget.
“Realistically, he turned enemy the moment that he chose to sign with Golden State,” Daniels said. “Let’s make that clear. It’s not like he’s not an enemy until he walks into Chesapeake Energy Arena. The moment he said I’m leaving Oklahoma City to play with a team that we lost to in seven games in the Western Conference, at that moment – I believe it was July 1 – he turned enemy then. So honestly, I believe the moment that Kevin Durant steps off the plane tonight after they play Memphis, he’ll get booed.”
The Warriors (44-8) play the Thunder (31-23) on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Daniels, 41, played 13 seasons in the NBA. He played for seven different NBA teams. Thunder fans, he said, are some of the best in basketball.
“It is a great fan base – one of the best and classiest fan bases in the NBA,” Daniels said. “But I’ll tell you this: When Kevin Durant chose to sign with Golden State, they were hurt. They were hurt. And the hurt is real. That’s not something that the media is making up. That’s not something that the media just pulled out of thin air. There are fans here that are hurt by Kevin Durant leaving and going to Golden State.”
Russell Westbrook was hurt, too. He doesn’t know if fans will cheer Durant or boo him Saturday night – nor does he care – but he did say this week that Durant did a lot for the Oklahoma City community.
“Right there, I think he’s acknowledging the obvious,” Daniels said. “You have to pay homage for what Kevin Durant has done – and I’m not just talking about on the basketball court. And this is the reason why the people of Oklahoma City were so hurt – because they not only beloved Kevin Durant because of the basketball player that he was, but because of the man that he was in the community. He was heavily and deeply involved in that community. Anytime a tragedy happened in Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant was there. Kevin Durant’s wallet was there. So when you lose that and that goes somewhere else, (it hurts). People think this is just all about basketball. It’s not just about basketball. It’s about losing a good human as well.”
If that is the case, Brandon Tierney observed, shouldn’t Durant’s contributions count for something? Shouldn’t his community involvement get cheered Saturday night?
“Should, yes,” Daniels said. “Should. Should. But understand they’re hurt because of what they lost. if you lost a great basketball player and a awful human being, you wouldn’t care as much. ‘Well, he can play, but I didn’t like him as a person. He didn’t interact with children. He didn’t interact with the community. So we’re not losing much. Who cares? He’s not a good role mode. He’s not a good person. Who cares?’ But when you lose both – when you lose a guy that’s one of the top guys in the league on the floor and one of the top guys off the floor – that hurts much more.”