The same door that was shut emphatically after the Thunder advanced to the West Finals by knocking off the San Antonio Spurs just maybe opened again slightly after the way Oklahoma City went down in blowing a 3-1 series lead against the Warriors. Maybe. Had the Thunder gone down in conventional fashion, I think Durant probably would have quickly re-upped without much thought; just the manner in which it happened, and the accompanying sting, might have been enough to at least get some other teams some interviews. But once he’s had his fill of the courting and is able to step away from the emotions of the loss, I agree he’ll return to the Thunder for at least another year, as most are predicting. No other basketball scenario makes much sense.
Had Klay Thompson not suddenly caught fire, the Thunder would have been right there playing for the title last night. Durant can’t leave that for the unknown of an entirely new roster. I thought previously where the Rockets might have had a chance would have been had the Thunder been dismantled by the Spurs, as it seemed would be the case after Game 1 of that series. Then, they could’ve pitched to Durant that they could build something better here than what he currently has. That will be an almost impossible sell now.
Its unfortunate, not just for the obvious reason of missing out on a generational player, but for the implications on James Harden’s career arc. As I’ve been musing recently on Twitter, despite being one of the best pure scorers in the world, I think where Harden’s true value lies is as a facilitator. And I would have loved to have seen him play that role out next to a great scorer like Durant. With Harden’s outside shooting, natural composure, and willingness as a passer, he and Durant really are the perfect blend of talents. I think Harden wants to set guys up, but hasn’t had much to work with here in Houston. Contrast that with Westbrook who, while probably held in higher regard overall than Harden, doesn’t really seem to amplify Durant’s strengths; Westbrook and Durant almost seem to have to take turns rather than meshing together. I think Houston could’ve made the sell on this fit, especially if including the prospect of a second max guy such as Al Horford whose passing abilities would’ve made the Rockets offense even more dangerous. But now, its all too theoretical. Why leave to a team that could be great when you are already on one that once again, almost was great?