Kevin Durant had to deal with a lot before his return to Oklahoma City Thunder. Now that it’s over, he can focus on just playing basketball.
Kevin Durant knew what he was getting himself into when he decided to sign with the Golden State Warriors. He understood that there would be major backlash. He understood that the people that adored him for eight years would turn on him.
Durant expected the boos. He expected the signs. He expected the hostile environment.
From the moment that his decision broke Twitter, fans circled last night’s matchup on their calendars. Durant and Russell Westbrook, for the foreseeable future, will be intertwined. Long after Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal separated, it’s nearly impossible to mention one without the other, even with all of their individual success outside of each other.
The two matchups at Oracle Arena just got Durant’s hockey stick-like feet wet. The real marquee matchup would be when Golden State entered the Chesapeake Energy Arena. That was the one everyone wanted to see.
As much as Durant downplayed it, it was obviously in the back of his mind. He admitted that there were nerves, but he tried to shift the narrative as much as he could. He didn’t want to make the story or the game about himself. Hell, he even tried to deflect his relief at the end of the game.
Durant had been shooting the ball poorly for a few games, at least from the perimeter. Now, it could have just been a slump. That’s perfectly normal. Or he was in his own head about needing to get into a rhythm before the OKC matchup.
The game was on his mind. The rivalry that may or may not exist between Durant and Westbrook should not be a talking point anymore. The anticipation of what the Oklahoma City faithful could bring is over; we’ve seen it.
We’ve seen the cupcake mascots and the cupcake t-shirts and the cupcake body pants and the…basically, there were a lot of cupcakes. They boo’d loudly, but perhaps not loudly enough for Durant’s liking. They brought out some really nasty stuff, according to Draymond Green.
The Warriors will visit Oklahoma City once again on March 20. It will be rowdy, but Durant has exercised those demons. They can’t surprise him anymore. They won’t be in his head anymore.
Durant doesn’t need to focus on answering questions about what he feels about his first time back. He won’t need to explain himself anymore. He can go about his business, semi-normally even against the Thunder, and just hoop.
Kevin Durant can now play basketball freely. It doesn’t matter if he’s playing the Oklahoma City Thunder or someone else. He’s free. He’s free to eat cupcakes or do whatever else he wants. He’s earned that.