Big star leaves his small market team to join a powerhouse squad that is set on winning multiple NBA championships.
This story seems to be played out over and over as the past few seasons have seen LeBron James jump ship (twice) to play with top players in search of a title, while the recent signing of Kevin Durant by the Golden State Warriors sees another marquee player join an already loaded team.
But if Cleveland is the exception (mostly because James returned with a young superstar in Kyrie Irving and a double-double machine in Kevin Love), Oklahoma City should look into the history books rather than a crystal ball to see their future.
The Thunder brass need to turn the page to the Summer of 2007. A disgruntled Kevin Garnett was traded to the Boston Celtics after the failed experiment of Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell did not yield a championship or finals appearance for the Big Ticket. That season, Garnett, along with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, claimed the NBA title, solidifying each of their places in NBA lore.
Garnett, now a past-his-prime player, returned to the T-wolves in 2015 to help mentor a young group of players and the hopes of becoming an owner in the Minnesota organization.
The Timberwolves, post Garnett, have seen failure after failure and are in still in search of the playoffs since 2004. The firing of Flip Saunders, the Kevin McHale-era, the numerous names (many of which I can’t remember) running the court and the decline of a once rising team have marred the T-wolves. In 2016, the light may have finally shined on the team as a great crop of young players in Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Ricky Rubio and a solid coach in Tom Thibodeau provide hope.
The Thunder now have to pick up the pieces and salvage their franchise before it decides to move back to Seattle. The difference for Oklahoma City is that they still have guard Russell Westbrook under contract for one more season and a successful head coach in Billy Donovan. Westbrook can be a one-man wrecking crew in the mold of Allen Iverson, while the addition Victor Oladipo and continued improvement from center Steven Adams may allow this team one more playoff run.
But Durant’s departure will not truly be felt until next season when Westbrook will also have to consider whether to stay or go. The Thunder will have to make a hard pitch to Westbrook and show continued to success in order to keep the Top 5 player. Ownership needs to do what they can to keep the team relevant as it is the only professional team the state of Oklahoma can root for.
• In other Kevin Durant news, fans have been outspoken about the forward’s choice in team. What I find interesting is that Durant still hasn’t seen as much flack as LeBron James did when he left for a ready-to-win team. Not trying to spill any hatorade on Durant’s choice, but when will fans learn that players know they need a ring to be considered great? We knock All-time greats like Dan Marino, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Ernie Banks and the like for not winning their sport’s championship. Durant knows that James has been forgiven for leaving Cleveland, so when he is old and returns to the Thunder (ala Kevin Garnett) people will forget the heartache and remember the greatest.
• The Minnesota Lynx got back on track with a 91-68 win after falling in three consecutive games and dropping two back behind the Los Angeles Sparks. The Lynx have the potential to match last season’s win total before they take off for the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.
• After a tough loss yesterday to Oakland, the Minnesota Twins are still 14 games away from preventing the worst season in modern-MLB history as they have surpassed the halfway point of the season. As the Twins, the club’s worst record was 60-102 in 1983, while the organization experienced a 113-loss season in 1904 as the Washington Senators. Unless this crew can play .500 ball the remainder of the season, expect the team to break the record at about 55 victories.