Kevin Durant shocked the world Monday when he announced his free agency decision to sign with the Golden State Warriors. It was a turn of events met with no shortage of ambivalence from the basketball-viewing public, given the very complicated, competing truths that Durant is both giving himself the best opportunity to win now and underscoring the league’s ongoing issues of parity by single-handedly torpedoing a small-market team that had built itself the “proper” way through the draft and trades.
There’s also been no lack of speculation as to what exactly motivated Durant to leave Oklahoma City, and now it looks like one long-running narrative may have been more of a factor than anyone directly involved was ever willing to admit. Via Howard Beck of Bleacher Report:
“Ultimately he got frustrated and felt that they had plateaued,” said a person with insight into Durant’s thought process. “[Donovan] came in, and he still had the same issues that he had with Russ under Scotty. The offense didn’t change much. He still had to take a ton of contested shots every game; and that’s when he had the ball at all.”
Questions about Durant and Russell Westbrook’s ability to coexist have been a go-to topic for media and fans alike, almost since the beginning of their tenure together. Publicly, Durant has always insisted that he loves playing with Russ and that there’s nothing to the whispers about their on-court chemistry issues, but the Thunder’s collapse in the Western Conference Finals last month after taking a 3-1 series lead may have been the breaking point. It seemed to be characterized by a reversion to hero-ball and all-around sloppy play, two of the main criticisms often levied at Westbrook.
Beck is a widely-respected, veteran NBA reporter with a relatively-unimpeachable reputation, but no matter. You always have to take anonymous sources with a grain of salt. There were clearly a number of considerations weighing on Durant’s decision, and it’s not totally absurd to think that some of the issues plaguing this team – which were obvious even to the most casual viewer – might have contributed to that.