Blogtable: Kevin Durant returns to Oklahoma City on Saturday
Each week, we ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
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What should we expect to see Saturday when Kevin Durant and the Warriors travel to Oklahoma City to play Russell Westbrook and the Thunder (8:30 ET, ABC)?
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David Aldridge: A lot of boos and a big Dubs performance. Durant’ new teammates know what this game means to him, and how emotional he’ll be; if ever there was a ‘we got your back’ game, this is it. I don’t doubt Russell Westbrook will be amped enough to try for a quintuple-double, but especially without Enes Kanter I wonder how the Thunder will be able to keep pace offensively with the Dubs’ firepower.
Steve Aschburner: I expect a Golden State victory, bigger numbers from Russell Westbrook than from Durant and a whole lot of Westbrook love from the OKC fans. They’ll give Durant the what-for, no doubt, in introductions and each time he touches the ball (at least for a while). But that fan base doesn’t have the toxicity of some in bigger, nastier markets so I expect them to cheer Westbrook nonstop more than they boo Durant. As electric as a Thunder victory would be, I think Durant’s Warriors teammates will see to it that their new buddy doesn’t take the ultimate hit that night.
Fran Blinebury: What we should expect to hear in Loud City is the sound of the roof blowing clear off the Chesapeake Energy Arena. I believe the sense of betrayal from the OKC fans will be palpable. Downright nasty in some corners. Toughest game of the year for Golden State. Yes, that includes the Cavs.
Scott Howard-Cooper: I’m more interested in what we’ll hear. I think Durant will get some cheers and a lot of boos. People there appreciate what he did for OKC — and not just OKC the basketball franchise — even if they are horribly disappointed in his free-agent decision. But he plays for the opponent now and opponents, especially ones that knocked the Thunder out of the playoffs last spring, walk into Loud City knowing they should keep ear plugs and aspirin handy. It’s the Warriors-Thunder game that means the most, more than the first reunion. That was the first, but it was also in Oakland. This is the one with more emotions and more to be seen. And heard.
Shaun Powell: The good and friendly people of OKC will applaud Durant and rightly so; he gave them plenty to cheer about for several years and helped put the town on the basketball map. And that’s not to mention his good deeds off the court and in the community, either. He’s not exactly going before Philadelphia fans. As for the game, expect Russell Westbrook to play turbo-charged as usual, and then once again behave like a spoiled teenager by refusing to acknowledge Durant afterward.
John Schuhmann: The atmosphere will be incredible. The OKC crowd is always great, but this will be like the Thunder are back in The Finals. Durant will be aggressive and his teammates will look to feed him. Westbrook will probably have a huge game, but won’t be able to beat the Warriors by himself. There will be no smiles or handshakes, and I imagine Draymond Green will do something that we’re talking about on Sunday and Monday.
Sekou Smith: Fury from both sides. Russell Westbrook won’t even have to whip the home crowd into a frenzy. They despised the Warriors long before Kevin Durant left town to join them. So Saturday night’s tilt will just be the latest installment on the simmering blood feud that will rage on for years to come. Durant, for his part, will surely try and fuel himself on the vitriol that will be showered upon him. The Warriors are used to hostile environments, though, so they should have no problems being ready for the madness. Hopefully the game matches or exceeds the level of play we saw from the Wizards and Cavaliers Monday in Washington.
Ian Thomsen: You’ll see (and hear) a lot of ambivalence. When the Thunder play a sentimental video welcoming Durant back to his former home, many fans won’t be able to help but applaud for the relationship they used to have. At the same time, they’re going to be cheering much louder for Russell Westbrook – who forestalled free agency in order to stay – which will mean boos for Durant. Ultimately this will be a win for the Warriors, as Durant’s teammates will do everything they can to see him through his return.
Lang Whitaker: Thunder fans will boo him, as is their right to do so. And I get it: He may have won an MVP playing there and taken them to an NBA Finals appearance, but he also left them of his own volition, so I can understand any residual anger. What else can we expect to see? Russell Westbrook putting up a triple-double and the Warriors winning big.
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