Ignoring Kevin Durant's departure won't make it go away
Did you know that ostriches don't actually bury their heads in the sand?
It's true, despite it's use as an expression to describe self-imposed ignorance. Ostriches simply bury eggs underground and occasionally dive down to make sure everything's fine with their future offspring.
I bring this up not just to debunk the myth but also because this feels like the rallying cry of Oklahoma City Thunder fans when considering Kevin Durant's upcoming free agency. Thunder fans groan loudly when "KD2DC" talk gains steam, as it recently did before Durant's lone appearance against his hometown Wizards.
It reminds me of something Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet..."The lady doth protest too much."
Complaining about the possibility of Durant returning home comes across as masking an all-too-real fear, like the proverbial whistling past a graveyard. Dismissing the chances of leaving OKC in 2016 because it's 'too far away' is disingenuous. No one regrets when Sam Presti and the Thunder front office make moves to bring a championship now while trading away future assets.
And while OKC has become "home" to Durant, the reality is that it isn't.
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To his credit, KD has never publicly entertained the notion of playing in Washington. He's even gone the opposite route, explaining the hassle that comes from playing in the arena near where he was raised; when Durant and the Thunder visit the Wizards, ticket requests from friends and family can become overwhelming.
However, not talking about it does nothing to dismiss the possibility. His ties to the area and his fandom of local NFL and MLB teams are well-documented. Durant's mother, Wanda Pratt, explained that she still roots "for the Wizards when they're not playing my son." That's a pretty solid endorsement, even if it falls well short of being an iron-clad agreement.
The point is that Pratt and Durant hear the noise and can acknowledge it, something many Thunder fans are unwilling to do.
Even writers like ESPN's Royce Young reduce the possibility as "just talk," as if that isn't what drives nearly every major transaction in the NBA. Trading superstars can manifest from simple discussions; free agency explosions like Miami's 2010 assembly allegedly began with players just talking about the possibility.
Ironically enough, it was the Heat signing of LeBron James that arguably provided the most fuel for the Durant-to-Washington possibility. But not because of how James joined Miami but rather because of how recently left.
Young points out that James' return to Cleveland "lit the lamp" about KD joining the Wizards. Young adds that while Durant called LeBron's decision to rejoin the Cavaliers as "classy", he points out that the Thunder superstar is "no follower" and "makes his own decisions."
This might all be true, but James set a precedent that can't be denied. And the nationally-embraced narrative of 'coming home' is an alluring one for players – and for everyone, really – that are often made to feel like exploited property even if they're being paid millions in the process.
Durant might want to set himself apart from James but going to Washington doesn't conflict with that desire. Unlike LeBron's four-year dalliance with the Heat, KD could join the Wizards, transform them into perennial title-contenders and not look back. He never had the option of going home before and, while winning is the ultimate priority, he can do both alongside Washington's young core of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
It's a possibility, and an alluring one, at that. The Thunder franchise has been good to Durant, without a doubt. And playing with Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka – both under contract through 2017 – can certainly bring a championship banner to the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
But it isn't home and it never will be. And Thunder fans have to accept that regardless of Durant's decision.
You can keep popping your head underground to check the status of Durant's free agency without burying your head in the sand. After all, 2016 is a lot closer than you might think.
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