Remember how excited everyone was for Greg Oden to enter the NBA?
That was it. He was going to be the next big . . . big. He had all the tangibles. He had all the intangibles. Oden was going to enter a guard-dominated league and refresh us with a traditional presence of a true center.
And then there was Kevin Durant.
The talented, long-limbed Longhorn, who was voted the 2006-07 National Player of the Year – not Oden.
Long story short, Oden was selected first overall by the Portland Trail Blazers and Durant was the consolation prize for the Seattle Supersonics, a team facing lackluster attendance and financial difficulties.
Click fast forward once more, and we find Durant on top of the basketball world. He is featured on the cover of NBA 2K15. He just won his first NBA Most Valuable Player Award.
He has not gotten a chance to caress the Larry O’Brien Trophy just yet, but life is pretty good for the 26-year-old Durant.
He and his Thunder buddy, Russell Westbrook, have formed one of the most lethal scoring combinations in the league.
So why would Durant try to fix what is not broken? Why would he dare choose to leave Oklahoma City and leave an opportunity to win a title with the franchise he built with his bare hands?
Money can make a men do things they would not normally do.
But that could not be the reason Durant would leave OKC when his contract is up in 2016, could it?
After all, the current collective bargaining agreement was constructed to allow small-market teams to retain superstars by letting them offer more money than opposing teams.
When the timer hits zero on Durant’s current deal, the Thunder will be gift-wrapping a luxurious five-year offer worth just less than $100 million.
But the mass hysteria of Durant’s MVP speech referencing his roots combined with the bizarre actions of LeBron James – the only other citizen on Durant’s planet – returning to his “hometown” Cleveland Cavaliers has catapulted the theory Durant would sign with his own hometown team.
The Washington Wizards are crossing their fingers that happens, and they have some change in the piggy bank to make it come true.
When Durant becomes a free agent, Washington will waive goodbye to Nene’s $13 million salary and have the chance to decline Martell Webster’s team option for $5.85 million. Tack on another team option for Otto Porter after this year and add it to a qualifying offer for Bradley Beal in 2016, and the Wizards could have some magic tricks brewing.
But what if he does not want to go home?
Is it plausible for Durant to both leave OKC and Washington behind in the shadows?
Durant’s former teammate, James Harden, is the mastermind behind that plan.
Harden is, apparently, preparing to join the recruiting efforts for Durant to join the Houston Rockets when he splashes down into free agency.
Dwight Howard is still a dominant center in the league. James Harden’s defense is not as spectacular as his beard, but the guy can ball on the offensive end.
Plus Terrence Jones and Patrick Beverly have proven to be quality role players for Houston. The Rockets have a playoff roster, but adding Durant would blast them off – me and my puns.
Seriously, Durant joining forces with Howard and Harden would give Houston one of the deadliest teams in the league, and with a San Antonio Spurs roster on the brink of losing its franchise cornerstone – unless Tim Duncan actually is a warlock with immortality – Houston could be the favorite out of the Western Conference.
That would be the biggest factor for Durant – championships. How many could he win with two more superstars? It is the same reason James left Cleveland in 2010, and it worked out.
It is not insane to believe Durant would do the same.
Although seven years from now, if Durant releases a letter via Sports Illustrated to announce his return to the Thunder, something tells me the taste will be a little bland.