Kevin Durant will enter Chesapeake Arena as a visitor for the second time Monday, and even though he’ll be sidelined with a knee injury, he most likely still won’t get the welcome back treatment.
The Golden State Warriors organization was furious and bewildered about the inactivity from Oklahoma City Thunder leadership leading up to that first Durant return contest on Feb. 11, league sources told ESPN.
Sources say the Warriors were of the mindset that someone from ownership or management should have addressed the media on Durant’s behalf to help ease the tension upon his return.
The feeling is that Durant should have been acknowledged or thanked, in a news conference setting, for his nine years of excellent service.
The Warriors’ belief, according to sources, is that the Thunder’s silence contributed to the raw emotions, outrage and indignation that created an unsettling, hostile atmosphere for a player many consider to be the franchise’s all-time best.
The Warriors felt, according to sources, that for a player who meant so much to a city — a small-market city at that — a courtesy greeting was in order from top brass, who should have issued their fans a reminder and proper perspective on Durant’s role in elevating the Thunder into a perennial championship-contending team.
There was no mention from the in-game operations staff about Durant’s return.
“We are very appreciative of Kevin’s contributions during the first eight years of the Thunder,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti told ESPN’s Royce Young leading up to the Warriors’ first game in Oklahoma City earlier this season. “As we have said, they’re a big reason for the foundation that we stand on today. He, in partnership with many teammates, invested a great deal in helping to build a culture and identity for a franchise in its infancy stages, one whose accomplishments and identity we should all take great pride in representing.
“When Kevin made the decision to leave and move on from Oklahoma and the Thunder, we responded in a manner that is consistent with how the Thunder tries to conduct itself, and I am incredibly proud of the people across our entire organization and the professionalism they have demonstrated. They have embraced Kevin’s past with the Thunder while sensibly and passionately investing in those that stand with us as we continue our work in Oklahoma with an inspired and positive outlook.
“We are fortunate to have people like Russell, Nick, Steven and Billy in place, individuals who care deeply about the Thunder and what it stands for in our community and who are proud of their contributions to date, yet driven and honored to write our next chapter together.”
Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James and his agent, Rich Paul, had conversations with Durant about what to expect, based on their own experiences. James’ first return to Cleveland in 2010 as a member of the Miami Heat was arguably the most hostile, chaotic player comeback scene.
Yet Durant had to go through it himself to fully understand the magnitude. “Cupcake” and “soft” chants, along with boos, were continuous that night.
Durant’s mom, Wanda, was even the target of constant mockery.
Durant was emotionally drained after that game, and he too felt that the situation could have been handled better prior to his arrival.
As of now, it is anticipated that he will remain in the Warriors’ locker room rehabbing and receiving treatment during Monday night’s game. However, if he ventures to the Golden State bench, he will either use crutches or walk with a noticeable limp.