KD’s return to Oklahoma City goes about as expected – Yahoo Sports
OKLAHOMA CITY – Cupcake props. “KOWARD” T-shirts. An on-court altercation between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and some 18,000 blue-clad fans booing Durant’s every move in a 130-114 Golden State win. It’s been seven months since Durant divorced Oklahoma City, but on Saturday the wounds from his defection felt as fresh as ever before.
You knew this was coming. As beloved as Durant was during his eight seasons in Oklahoma City, he is equally as reviled here today. Mike Peerson, 44, shelled out $450 for a pair of tickets — and made the six-hour drive from Manhattan, Kan., to use them. Shawn McKinish, 30, called Durant’s departure “a bad breakup,” while Ethan Lush, 19, said he would never forgive Durant for “leaving for the enemy.”
The Thunder? They don’t seem ready to let Durant’s defection go, either. Back-to-back thrashings by Golden State early in the season were largely uneventful. This one? Not so much. In the third quarter, with the Thunder chipping away at an 18-point lead, the tension between Durant and Westbrook bubbled over.
“I’m coming,” Westbrook shouted at Durant.
“So what?” Durant fired back.
Durant would like you to believe it’s just basketball, but for Westbrook, for Oklahoma City, it’s so much more. They feel betrayed, cut not only by Durant’s decision to leave, but by the team he went to. There has been no communication between Durant and Westbrook since Durant departed, and there likely won’t be anytime soon.
The cupcake cutouts that sprinkled the arena and the T-shirts with the same image — several of which were grabbed by Golden State players after the game — were born from a Westbrook Instagram post. The story, first reported by Sports Illustrated, goes that ex-Thunder center Kendrick Perkins called soft players “cupcakes.” So there was Westbrook, Fourth of July weekend, hours after Durant announced his decision, posting a picture of holiday-themed cupcakes on his account.
Think it’s not personal? Think again.
Ask Andre Roberson. Late in the third, Roberson and Durant got tangled up. The two went nose to nose, exchanging a head-butt before circling around a scrum to go chest to chest again. Durant downplayed the incident. Roberson? “My parents didn’t raise me to back down from somebody,” Roberson said. “I have the utmost respect for him as person. The decision he made kind of doesn’t sit right with me. But it’s in the past, and we have got to move forward.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr has seen his share of hostile crowds. In 2010, Kerr was part of the TNT broadcast of LeBron James’ return to Cleveland. That crowd was emotional. This one, Kerr said, “was pretty similar.”
“That one might have been a little nastier,” Kerr said. “I remember that well. I think a lot of those people who were burning LeBron jerseys when he left were at the parade last year when he won. That’s sports.”
Eventually, the anger towards Durant will fade. But if Saturday is any indication, it will take a while. The boos began when Durant took the floor to warm up, oversized headphones muting some of the noise. He was the fourth Warrior introduced and the noise was so loud and intense you couldn’t hear the fifth. Shouts of “Traitor!” and “Why did you do it, Kevin?” echoed from the lower bowl. In the third quarter, Draymond Green got into a heated exchange with a fan that ended with a police officer intervening.
“Calling guys the ‘p’ word,” Green said. “[Saying] get over there, little boy. This ain’t the ancient times. Slave days are over.”
For his part, Durant did everything he could to minimize the moment. He appeared anxious before the game, conducting a brief, six-minute interview with local reporters before disappearing into a visiting locker room he admitted he had never stepped in before. Durant is proud of what he accomplished in Oklahoma City, in the community and on the floor, so the backlash, however expected, had to hurt.
Durant has thrived against his former team this season. A 39-point game in November was topped by a 40-point effort in January. After a rocky start on Saturday, Durant surged, finishing with 34 points and nine rebounds. It was a successful night — but perhaps not exactly a satisfying one.
On the “cupcake” chants, Durant said, “I’ve been called worse.” On the exchange with Westbrook, Durant said, “It’s part of the game.” Regarding the boos, Durant said he was “locked in” and if “you’re not in between those lines, you really don’t matter.” He admitted he was glad his first trip to Oklahoma City was over but expected the same hostile reception the next time he comes back.
The postgame scrum ended quickly, and Durant hustled down a hallway, stopping to hug a few arena officials along the way. He’ll return again in March, though there is a potentially awkward All-Star Weekend with Westbrook he will have to navigate first. A chapter in Durant’s history with Oklahoma City was finished tonight, though it won’t be the last one written.
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