But matchup on the court should be most important story at the end of the night
By Michael Kinney
It’s easily the most anticipated game of the early NBA season. When the Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors tip-off at 9:30 p.m. tonight on TNT, the basketball watching world will have all eyes on them.
The drama surrounding former Oklahoma City teammates Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant has made the NBA relevant two months earlier than normal. Well, at least for one night.
Durant’s departure from Oklahoma City after the Thunder lost a 3-1 lead to Golden State in the Western Conference Finals last season was stunning. The fact he went to the same Warriors squad was earth shattering.
For months after the July 4th announcement, every word out of Durant’s mouth was dissected to see if he was slighting his former team. Or in today’s vernacular, throwing shade. Many times, it seemed that he was.
But recently in an interview with the Mercury News, Durant said he and Westbrook are still brothers and that he handled his departure wrong. That interview just happened to come days before the two teams faced off for the first time. Obviously, not a coincidence.
On Westbrook’s part, he hasn’t said to much publicly about the divorce except to say that he hasn’t spoken with KD yet.
What he has done is lead the revamped Thunder to the best record in the league while averaging a triple double. They and Cleveland are the only undefeated teams left heading into tonight. He has also transformed himself from the moody, angry talent into the fiery MVP candidate and who didn’t run from the challenge of leading the Thunder. At least that’s the way fans around the league see it. For the first time Durant is looked upon as the villain while Westbrook has snagged hero part.
And Part 1 of their three regular season encounters will play out on the Oracle floor tonight in Oakland.
Match up wise, the Warriors have serious advantage. They are No. 1 in the league in scoring at 113.8 for a reason. Even though the nucleus of Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are still trying to merge their games, after the season opening loss, they have won three straight. Durant is the team’s leading scorer at 28 ppg.
Oklahoma City was already a brand new squad even before adding Jerami Grant two days ago. Yet, In one game he has proven trading for him was the right move by General Manger Sam Presti.
But, besides Westbrook, the team’s biggest advantage continues to be their size. Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Domantas Sabonis and Grant give the Thunder the advantage on the front line. They are averaging 51.8 rebounds per contest.
With Victor Oladipo stepping up his game, the Thunder may feel they can match the Warriors backcourt.
So, while most the television and radio talk shows and newspaper columnist will focus on what will Durant and Westbrook do when they come out for the jump ball, the most important question is are the Thunder for real.
If Oklahoma City can come away with a victory or the very least a competitive game, Golden State will know the Thunder are a serious team they will have to deal with down the road.
After the Thunder beat the L.A. Clippers 85-83 Wednesday, Westbrook was told people expected Oklahoma City to fall off after Durant left.
“That’s where they went wrong,” Westbrook responded.