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The Kevin Durant Narrative Is Unfair

Bill Simmons and Joe House break down why KD made his choice on the latest ‘Bill Simmons Podcast’

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It’s been a wild week in NBA free agency. Bill Simmons called his buddy Joe House on the latest Bill Simmons Podcast to talk about the big moves, including Dwyane Wade going to the Bulls, what the Knicks are thinking, and the Celtics landing Al Horford. Of course, Bill and House went deep on why Kevin Durant chose the Golden State Warriors. Read a portion of that conversation below, and listen to the entire episode here.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Bill Simmons: The narrative when Durant left, which was pushed out in multiple places I read, made it seem like KD … changed, [like] he’s impressionable, he had outside forces that pushed him to this.

Joe House: We don’t have to name names. That’s ridiculous.

B.S.: We’re agnostic. I don’t really care. I was upset that Durant didn’t go to Boston, but ultimately, I don’t care who’s right — OKC or Durant. What I didn’t like is this portrayal that he was weak, that there was a weakness to the decision, that he took the coward’s way out.

And I don’t agree with it. I thought [Chris] Bosh made a really good point on my show last night about when you get that close, sometimes that’s the hardest. When you get that close and you can taste it, it fundamentally aches and hurts, and you just want to get away from it. I think there were many decisions that led to [picking Golden State], and I don’t feel like they were reflected in the reporting.

For one thing, maybe he was just tired of playing with Russell Westbrook. He played with him for eight years. Maybe he loves Westbrook as a friend — he just didn’t want to play with him anymore. Maybe he was tired of living in Oklahoma City, which is a really small city where he stands out. He’s a 7-foot black guy walking around this tiny little town in the middle of America. Everywhere he goes, people know who he is, what he’s up to, and what he’s doing. Maybe he just didn’t want to deal with that anymore. Maybe he wanted to live in the Bay Area. Maybe he just wanted to buy some house in San Francisco and just be left alone. Maybe he wanted to be more of a business guy and be around Silicon Valley people. Maybe he wanted to play with Steph Curry and Draymond [Green] and these guys. Maybe he wanted to be in a better offense. Maybe he wanted to be on a team that just spends money. Nobody talked about that part. He’s on a team that’s gonna spend fucking money now. He was not in that situation in Oklahoma City. He wanted to be in the best position to succeed, in an organization that put every available resource into their team. How does that make him weak?

J.H.: Not to mention the chance to play for Steve Kerr, a guy with a pretty good track record.

B.S.: He’s never had a good coach!

J.H.: Never had a good coach. That’s precisely the point I was gonna make. I’m in violent agreement with you on all of those things. That’s the beauty of what the collective bargaining agreement affords these players. I support it — the players’ right to self-determination when the circumstances provide the opportunity, and, for KD, it genuinely struck me as something that was week-by-week. The circumstances that led to him heading off to Golden State: If OKC had beaten Golden State, he would have stayed. If the Warriors had won again, he might have stayed. Think about how everything changed in great, big, dramatic fashion from week to week, which led to the [Golden State] situation being the attractive [option]. I don’t think it speaks to his character one bit.

B.S.: And the loyalty thing is really annoying to me. First of all, Clay Bennett moved the Thunder from Seattle to Oklahoma City. That doesn’t seem very loyal.

J.H.: Because he tried to hold Seattle hostage for a publicly funded stadium and the city wouldn’t pony up. Of course he had the right to do that.

B.S.: That’s one thing. Second, he signs a huge extension in 2010 to stay there for five years, so does Westbrook, and then, [two years] later, they just trade Harden. Not sure about the loyalty there. They fired Scotty Brooks a year ago. That doesn’t seem very loyal.

Sports isn’t loyal. Shit happens. And I know Durant was talking about “Yeah, the community,” all this stuff, but, you know what? He’s [27]. Shit changes. I changed my mind a million times in my mid-20s. We act like these guys are like 45 years old.

I think to put in a piece, to talk about his decision in the context of him proposing to his girlfriend and then changing his mind … I don’t agree with that at all. He was 24. He got engaged, and then he called the engagement off. What the fuck does that have to do with him signing with the Warriors?

J.H.: Right. We’re in violent agreement about that.

B.S.: I’m sure he has people in his life who thought it was a better situation for him to be on Golden State, to be on a team that has unlimited resources, to be on a team that now has four of the best 12 players in the world, and to be in the Bay Area.

J.H.: Reminder: Some of those people in his life are the people that pay him the real money — Nike. He doesn’t make his money playing basketball, he makes his money from his shoe contract. I think Nike might have a little say in that matter.

B.S.: I went from thinking, “Why would Nike want their guy to be on an Under Armour team?” Actually, it’s brilliant. Now instead of being an Under Armour team, that’s now an Under Armour and Nike team.

J.H.: Yes, of course.

B.S.: So, look, I get it.

I get being bitter when somebody leaves. Roger Clemens. He left Boston. I wrote a whole piece five years later: Is Roger Clemens the Antichrist? I get the bitterness. It fucking hurts when somebody that you loved and you rooted for leaves. I get it. The Clemens thing — for me, for everyone in Boston — was bitter because he was out of shape the last couple years. Then he went to Toronto, he got in shape, and he won two Cy Youngs. This, to me, was different. Durant gave everything he had to that team. Are we positive — he broke his foot, he came back too soon, he had to have [three] surgeries on it — he didn’t trust the team from a medical standpoint? Maybe that played a tiny bit of a factor. Who the fuck knows? If it was a situation of, “Well, he was grabbing the money,” he took a two-year deal. What money did he grab? He clearly just wanted a basketball situation and he wanted a change. He’d been in Oklahoma City for eight years …

Maybe he just wanted to live somewhere else. He just wanted to live somewhere else and wanted to play for a better team and that’s it … That’s a fair analysis, right?

J.H.: We’re in agreement. People don’t like it when we’re in agreement, but it’s a fair analysis. It’s fair to him. He had the choice and he took it.