Jeremy Woo of SI.com on breakups: “Hang whatever hat you want on this. Believe whatever.
The NBA’s latest great what-if scenario ultimately comes down to a long-standing relationship between two people, one of whom decided he would be best carrying on without the other. I think we can safely say that KD genuinely loved growing up—effectively—in Oklahoma City. We’ve seen superstars get fed up, fight and bicker, demand trades and walk away. We’ve seen teams and teammates drive each other out. So it’s undeniably weird that Kevin Durant left Russell Westbrook behind after eight years, after neither guy ever said one bad thing about the other, at least publicly. They were close friends. They did not call or text each other during the process. They may only ever play together again at All-Star Weekend. They have not talked about it since.”
Jay Caspian Kang of the NY Times: “Durant versus Westbrook will be next year’s dominant N.B.A. motif because it brings in the full breadth of the rich, if at times overblown, metaphors that have always driven the best sportswriting: loyalty versus self-interest, the individual versus the empire and solidarity with the underdog versus the cynical efficiency of the superteam. The personalities of both players, on court and off, should be enough to compel our attention, supplemented by all the data analysis you could ever want. Even if we should balk at any easy moralizing, there’s no need to sacrifice a good story in the process.”
Derek James of Hardwood Paroxysm: “This team won 55 games in 2016 but lost Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. There is still talent here. Russell Westbrook is locked up and Steven Adams and Enes Kanter will all be back. The question becomes whether Victor Oladipo can take that next step. Can the Thunder bank on this and whether or not its young players like Cameron Payne and Domantas Sabonis are ready for more meaningful roles than previously expected? We’ll have to see but they should be fine next season.”
Paul Pierce is headed back to the Clippers. Could’ve been an interesting option for OKC.
Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript: “Sure, a year-and-a-half of down play is usually a large enough sample size on which to judge a player. But we also have two-and-a-half seasons showing that he can produce with consistent playing time. That production just didn’t come in Oklahoma City. It was, instead, in Detroit. So, which Singler is the real one? The Thunder have to use the start of the season to uncover the answer. The Thunder don’t just need shooters. They also need wings. If Morrow’s defense renders him only a situational player, and if Abrines does, in fact, end up paying rent in Donovan’s doghouse, the Thunder are left with a wing rotation of just Victor Oladipo and Andre Roberson, assuming Josh Huestis, who hasn’t yet developed a 3-point shot, doesn’t stumble upon playing time. That’s why Singler’s role matters.”
Andrew Sharp of SI.com on Team USA: ‘This team’s only been together for a month, and it shows on both ends of the floor. “The challenge is to get everyone on the same page,” Tom Thibodeau says. “If one guy breaks down, the defense will break down.” On defense, they don’t have the rim-protecting anchor that helped cover for those lapses in 2008 (Dwight Howard) and 2012 (Tyson Chandler). On offense, they don’t have a true point guard who can take all their weapons and keep them all involved. This might be one reason Durant will explode for a quarter against a team like France, and then disappear in the final three.”