Poor Oklahoma City, poor Russell Westbrook. The departure of Kevin Durant in free agency, to none other than their rival Golden State Warriors, crushed the Thunder, their fans, and the entire city. Russell Westbrook is now left as the sole superstar on a team that could have had three (Westbrook, James Harden, Durant) if their recent history played out a little differently. He has a chance to go more furiously supersonic than ever and take over, racking up more triple-doubles in a defiant testament to himself and Oklahoma City that he can win a title by himself with their remaining talent.
Of course, that won't happen. Somewhere around the sixth seed in the Western Conference seems like a far more realistic target for the Thunder. That being said, if they can't renegotiate Westbrook to a new max contract this summer, they may be forced to trade him to avoid losing him for nothing in 2017 free agency.
It's a tough situation for Westbrook, and what makes it even tougher is that Durant reportedly told him he'd be staying put. ESPN's Royce Young said the following on a podcast about the Thunder's future:
Three weeks ago, Kevin Durant's sitting there at dinner, telling him "Hey, I'm coming back, man. Don't worry about it." And now, Russell Westbrook has been kind of thrown into this in having to decide his future a summer earlier than expected.
If Durant said that, his departure to Golden State is obviously far more painful to Westbrook. Like everyone else, he would have expected the former MVP to stay put, running on competitive spirit to defeat the Warriors after going up 3-1 in the Conference Finals, not running to a fresh start with a new team for endless championship chances.
See photos of Kevin Durant:
Kevin Durant through his career
Kevin Durant through his career
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 24: NBA player Kevin Durant attends the game between the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium on September 24, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO - MARCH 29 : Kevin Durant #3 of the West moves the ball against the East during the 2006 McDonald's All American High School Basketball game at Cox Arena on March 29, 2006 in San Diego, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2006 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Texas forward Kevin Durant (35) is shown during first half action in their college basketball game Friday, Nov. 10, 2006, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Harry Cabluck)
Texas forward Kevin Durant (35) celebrates with fans following the team's win over Texas A&M in Austin, Texas, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2007. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
** ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JUNE 23-24 -- FILE -- ** Basketball players Kevin Durant, right, from the University of Texas, and Greg Oden, from Ohio State University, pose with a USA Basketball senior national team jersey as they officially join the team during a news conference in Las Vegas, in this May 23, 2007 file photo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Texas' Kevin Durant takes questions in the interview room after being selected by the Seattle Supersonics as the No. 2 overall pick in the first round of the NBA Draft on Thursday, June 28, 2007. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Seattle SuperSonics' Kevin Durant smiles as he holds a basketball at the team's first practice, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2007, in Seattle. Durant, the second overall draft pick in June, begins his NBA life as the Sonics begin preseason practice. Seattle isn't shying away from loading last season's national player of the year as a freshman at Texas with high expectations. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Seattle SuperSonics' Kevin Durant ,left, drives past New Orleans Hornets' Morris Peterson in a NBA basketball game during the first half Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2007 in Seattle. (AP Photo/Jim Bryant)
Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant and Seattle Supersonics' Kevin Durant line up against each other during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Friday, March 21, 2008. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Seattle SuperSonics' Kevin Durant holds his trophy after he was named NBA basketball's Rookie of the Year, Thursday, May 1, 2008 in Bellevue, Wash. Durant averaged 20.3 points per game. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Golden State Warriors guard Anthony Morrow, left, goes up for a shot in front of Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, right, in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Monday, Dec. 8, 2008. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Kevin Durant reacts as Oklahoma City defeats the Charlotte Bobcats 84-81 in an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, April 10, 2009. Durant had 20 points in the victory. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) tries to get past Cleveland Cavaliers' Daniel Gibson (1) in an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant reacts from the bench late in the second half of their NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2010. Durant led the Thunder with 33 points to beat the Blazers 89-77.(AP Photo/Don Ryan)
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant shoots against the San Antonio Spurs in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Monday, March 22, 2010. Durant had 45 points, but San Antonio won 99-96. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, right, low-fives teammate forward Nick Collison, left, during player introductions prior to an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, March 26, 2010. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, right, looks on from the bench along with guard Russell Westbrook during the closing seconds in Game 5 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Tuesday, April 27, 2010, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 111-87. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
United States Kevin Durant reacts during the semifinal between USA and Lithuania at the World Basketball Championship, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010, in Istanbul, Turkey. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant dunks against the Golden State Warriors in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2010. Durant had 28 points as Oklahoma City won 114-109. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, left, and Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph, right, stand together and watch a foul shot in the second quarter of Game 2 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, May 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, right, drives around New York Knicks guard Bill Walker, left, in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012. The Thunder won 104-92. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant speaks during an NBA All Star basketball player news conference, Friday, Feb. 24, 2012, in Orlando, Fla. The NBA All Star game will be played in Orlando on Sunday. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) celebrates against the San Antonio Spurs during the second half of Game 6 in the NBA basketball Western Conference finals, Wednesday, June 6, 2012, in Oklahoma City. The Thunder won 107-99. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Kevin Durant of the U.S. men's senior national team reacts during a pre-Olympic friendly basketball match against Argentina at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, July 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, center, reaches for a loose ball with Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, right, and forward Pau Gasol, of Spain, during the second half of their NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 105-96. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) is pictured during an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns in Oklahoma City, Friday, Feb. 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) puts pressure on Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) during the fourth period of an NBA basketball game in Miami, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. The Thunder won 112-95. (AP PhotoAlan Diaz)
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant shoots in front of Miami Heat forward LeBron James during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. Miami won 103-81. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) reacts after hitting a foul shot in overtime of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. Oklahoma City won 137-134. Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic is at left. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant plays in the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
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At the same time, while it's unfair for Durant to put Westbrook's mind at ease before going against his word, he may have had no intention to follow through with a return to OKC. His mind must have gone back and forward throughout his free agency process. If he had clear intentions to join the Warriors, he may have been hesitant to reveal that to those in the Thunder organization he didn't want to disappoint.
That could still be the case, but Young commented further that Durant went as far as looking into buying a new house in Oklahoma City, hinting at a desire to stay:
Kevin Durant, more so than even that, was telling people, "Hey, yeah, I mean I'm coming back." Like I said in there, a week before Kevin Durant sat down in the Hamptons, he was in Oklahoma City ready to make an offer on a multi-million-dollar house. So, the guy was pretty serious about coming back, and then things turned rather quickly for him to leave. And there's no doubt that the organization felt a little bit burned by this.
This entire drama won't go away any time soon, especially with Russell Westbrook's future being so up in the air.
It's hard to know exactly what happened between the two Thunder superstars before everything changed, as some communications between the two could have easily gone unreported. We can never know everything that was said and what Durant's intentions were all along and how they changed.
However, if Kevin Durant really did say he'd stay or gave any indication to an optimistic Thunder organization that there was nothing to worry about, the criticism for him as the NBA's new villain will only increase.