Kevin Durant’s decision to sign with the Golden State Warriors certainly wasn’t shocking. But prior to signing in Golden State, Durant met with members of the Oklahoma City Thunder — including Russell Westbrook.
That meeting left the Oklahoma City group thinking that Durant was staying, and Westbrook asked what he could differently to keep him there.
“In the last week of June, with the free agency signing period looming, Durant meets Thunder teammates Russell Westbrook and Nick Collison and assistant coach Royal Ivey at BOA Steakhouse in West Hollywood,” ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne wrote. “Over steaks, Westbrook, in an effort to lobby Durant to stay in Oklahoma City, asks Durant what he could do differently. The Thunder contingent leaves the restaurant that night with the impression that Durant will return.”
The timing of Westbrook’s question is curious.
Let’s assume that Westbrook was under the impression that his game needed to change to keep Durant. Why wait?
Durant’s free agency was one of the NBA’s main storylines throughout the 2015-16 season. It certainly didn’t catch anyone by surprise.
Westbrook could have gone to Durant the previous summer and asked him the same question. If Durant did want to see a change, Westbrook could have spent the entire 2015-16 season showing him that change was possible. At that point, Durant would have at least seen the change in action. Maybe the change would have worked and led the Thunder to a title. Maybe it would have been a complete bust.
But by waiting until late June, Durant was only left to imagine how any change from Westbrook would play out. Because of that, any willingness to change expressed in that meeting likely came off as more of a Hail Mary than anything else.