Dale Budge: Kevin Durant has completely destroyed the Thunder

By Dale Budge

Kiwi basketball fans should be happy Kevin Durant has departed our default team in the NBA.

The NBA star has left Steven Adams and the Oklahoma City Thunder to sign as a free agent with the Golden State Warriors - the very side that eliminated the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals.

Kiwi fans can be happy in that it is now OK to dislike the guy. It was harder to do that when he was the star player for the team we all adopted as our Kiwi team over the past couple of seasons even though he seemed precious and high maintenance.

This defection is worse than most in pro sport. Far worse than fellow NBA star LeBron James' move to the Miami Heat a few seasons back.

I have no problem with Durant wanting to go somewhere he believes he can win an elusive championship. I don't mind that he gave up on the Thunder and that he has chosen to take the easier route to winning a ring by signing on with the team coming off a best ever regular season record.

I can handle that.

What I struggle with is the way in which he has sabotaged the other major contenders, including the Thunder - the team he spent nine seasons with - before thumbing his nose at them. Had he openly said he was off to win a ring elsewhere, fair enough, but to string teams along, to con them into thinking he would return only to wait until all the other big free agents were snapped up elsewhere before announcing a move to the Warriors has left the Thunder and other teams in no-man's land.

Durant spent the past four days in the Hamptons - the upmarket seaside community on New York's Long Island - taking pitches from teams wanting his services.

He met with the Thunder, the Warriors, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat and the LA Clippers - a who's who of the NBA elite.

He wants us to believe that he listened to each of them, thought about his options for an hour or two over a cocktail and then made the call to sign with Golden State? Bollocks.

He duped them. He made the who's who of the NBA wait on his decision to the point they had no options left when he walked in another direction. It was a ploy all along and he will be hated for it.

Surely the minute his Thunder side were eliminated from the playoffs Durant would have been pondering his options. If money was the driving factor you could understand him waiting on the various sales pitches but when winning a ring became his priority he must have known the Warriors were his best bet. There was no need for the delayed and drawn out consideration.

Had he been upfront with the Thunder all along, they at least could have moved in another direction when free agency started. They could have made a play for other leading free agents. They were interested in Al Horford but they watched him sign on with the Celtics as they continued to focus on bringing back Durant.

The Thunder is now in limbo. They have fellow star Russell Westbrook coming off contract this time next year but he is unlikely to be with the Thunder much longer. He won't win a ring with OKC now and he is sure to get a bigger deal if he waits for free agency next season where he will follow Durant's lead and head elsewhere. At least the Thunder won't be waiting around for it this time though.

The Thunder need to go into full blown re-build mode and the man that stands to benefit from that plan would be Kiwi Adams.

He also becomes a free agent next season and the Thunder now has plenty of money and cap space to play with. Adams could re-sign as soon as this off-season and there is every chance the Thunder will offer him significant money now.

Talk of US$15-$20 million a season seemed a little high a few months ago but, based on the events of the past week, would appear to be well low now.

Players with a lot less upside to Adams have been banking that sort of money this week. The Kiwi center must be a serious chance of getting somewhere in the vicinity of US$20-$25 million a season.

Our answer might come sooner rather than later. The Thunder will take some time to reflect on the very few options they have. When the dust settles they will realise Durant broke them.

Westbrook is going to leave soon enough - they might as well trade him during the 2016-17 season and get something in return for him before he departs at the season's end and the Thunder get nothing.

All roads lead to a re-build and when they decide on that option - giving Adams a big deal to stay and build around will be the smart play.

- NZ Herald

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