November 3, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) shoots a technical foul shot as Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) looks on during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
How Kevin Durant can turn boos into cheers on Saturday night when he returns to Oklahoma City as the enemy.
Kevin Durant returns to the Chesapeake Energy Arena on Saturday night. I’m not sure if anyone knows about that yet. It’ll be the first time he’s stepped foot on that court since Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals.
If he wants to get cheered on Saturday night, he should replicate his performance from Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals.
Oklahoma City Thunder fans remember that game very well. Not for good reasons. We remember how Durant missed 21 of his 31 shots taken. How he shot 1/8 from three. How every role player did their job, gave OKC a chance to win in the fourth quarter, and how Durant couldn’t buy a bucket. And we remember how he literally handed the ball to the Warriors at the end of the game.
May 30, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30, right) is congratulated by Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) after game seven of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Thunder 96-88. Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
After that game, and the subsequent Game 7 loss, it seemed almost impossible that Durant would leave. The team was that close. They should have been in the Finals. They were still young and improving. Billy Donovan proved himself to be a smart and adaptable coach. They still had Russell Westbrook. They lost because Durant failed them in the most crucial game of the series. After his performance in Game 6, how could he, as a competitor, leave for the team that beat him?
Durant is going to get booed as bad as an NBA player can get booed on Saturday. Anyone who thinks differently is foolish. It’s not just how he left, it’s who he left for and his comments (and lack of comments) after he left. It’s how he acted in the first meeting between the two teams. It’s our love for Westbrook. It’s a combination of so many things that non-Thunder fans simply don’t understand because few fanbases have a connection to the team and players like Oklahoma City.
A wink and a nod aren’t going to save him. But 21 missed shots, frustration after every play, melting down in the fourth quarter, and handing the ball to OKC in the closing minutes would certainly result in some cheers.
Other Ways Durant Can Earn Cheers
*He could just turn on the Warriors and score for Oklahoma City. There’s no rule against scoring in your opponents basket all game, is there? How long would it take for Steve Kerr to pull him, or for Draymond Green to kick him? In-game turns are nothing new. Kobe did it in Game 7 against the Suns, LeBron did it in Game 4 against the Mavericks, and the entire Lakers team turned on each other against the Pistons. This would be a pretty extreme example, a guy literally scoring for the opponent, but the NBA is where extreme happens.
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*During halftime, if Durant comes out and burns a copy of My Next Chapter, I’d imagine people will cheer. He’d still play for the Warriors, and he’d still be a cupcake, but at least he’d be admitting that he (or his agent) wrote a shallow letter to announce his decision and that he could have gone about it a better way.
*If Durant and Westbrook embrace, there’s a chance that fans will respond positively. We’re going to do what Westbrook tells us to do. If Westbrook doesn’t want us to cheer that softie, we won’t cheer the softie. But if Westbrook gives him a hug, he’s telling us that the hatchet is buried and that it’s time to move on and remember the good moments Kevin gave us.
*Miss the last shot. Pretty simple. If the Warriors have the ball, down one, two, or three, and Kevin Durant misses the game-winning/game-tying field goal, the place is going to explode. Half the arena will be cheering a victory, the other half will be cheering because it was Durant who missed. You’ll know which side someone is on based on how loud they are.