Barber: Every NBA rumor circles back to Kevin Durant
OAKLAND — Remember this fact until deep into the summer. If you find yourself forgetting it for a moment, hit yourself in the forehead with the business end of a shoe as a subtle reminder. Here’s the fact: It’s all about Kevin Durant.
What is? Everything. Cryptic wall graffiti, the tides, the chiming of the grandfather clock, sudden movements by cats and babies, a song you haven’t heard in years until it plays twice on the radio in a two-hour span. All of them portend meaningful things about Durant, the third-year Golden State Warrior, and the decisions he will reach this summer.
When the 2018-19 NBA season began, Durant’s impending free agency was the big story. And it wasn’t even really impending yet. It was months away. But that’s what NBA coverage has become — five minutes on that night’s game and 25 minutes on what LeBron said to Kawhi, and what it might have to do with Kyrie. After Durant and Draymond Green got into an on-court spat in Los Angeles on Nov. 12 (and the Warriors quickly went into a tailspin), Durant’s feels were all we could talk about. As it should be.
But we get distracted — by Stephen Curry’s groin and Draymond Green’s toe, by losing streaks that turn into long winning streaks, by the heroic appearance of DeMarcus Cousins.
Be better than that! This is the Winter of Durant, if only because it precedes the inevitable Summer of Durant.
The jolt of a reminder came Thursday. The Warriors had returned home from a brilliant five-game road trip to play the young, talented Philadelphia 76ers at Oracle Arena. That should have carried enough intrigue to get us through the night.
But a few hours before tipoff, the New York Knicks confirmed that they were trading prized big man Kristaps Porzingis and some other players to the Dallas Mavericks for a bunch of different players and a pair of first-round draft choices. This swap raised several pressing questions. Why would the Knicks trade Porzingis, a singular talent? Was this more evidence of that organization’s incompetence? Could it make the Mavericks deep playoff contenders next year, when Porzingis returns from a torn ACL?
Instead, here was the headline on a story than ran on the Sports Illustrated blog the Crossover on Thursday afternoon: “The Kristaps Porzingis Trade Is All About Kevin Durant for the Knicks.”
See what I’m saying?
You THOUGHT the trade was about a very tall Latvian and a very dysfunctional team. But no, not in the Year of Durant.
Before the 76ers beat the Warriors, someone had asked Steve Kerr about the NBA’s latest blockbuster deal. “I never really like to talk about other teams’ personnel moves, that’s their own business,” Kerr said.
For his part, Durant seemed strangely detached during the Warriors’ 113-104 loss Thursday night. He scored 25 points, more or less his birthright, but made just 1 of 8 3-point attempts. I had left the home locker room by the time Durant showed up, but Marcus Thompson of the Athletic wrote that the All-Star “left the locker room without talking and visibly unhappy.”
Durant and Kerr knew the questions that were coming. Because everything that happens within the Warriors’ walls, and far beyond, now relates back to Durant and his decision. That includes a transaction between teams located 3,000 miles and 1,700 miles, respectively, from Oakland.