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NBA Fails to Capitalize on Budding Rivalry

NBA WallpaperAs the NBA tips off its 71st season on Oct. 25th, a glaring vacancy is missing from its opening night lineup.

The highly anticipated debut of the new look Warriors will come against San Antonio, a pairing that hasn’t met in the playoffs four four years, while the matchup against the Thunder will have to wait nine days.

Oklahoma City will visit Oracle Arena on Nov. 4th, the fifth game of the season for both teams. 

On July 4th, Kevin Durant made the stunning announcement that he would leave the Thunder — the organization where he spent the first nine years of his career — to join Golden State.

The Warriors pulled off a shocking comeback, winning the 2016 Western Conference finals against Oklahoma City after erasing a 3-1 series deficit.

Along with the Thunder’s inability to close out the series, the team lost one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history.

During his final season in Oklahoma City, Durant scored 2,000 points in a season for the fifth time in his career, a total that has only been surpassed by 10 other players: George Gervin, Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dominique Wilkins, Alex English, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan and Karl Malone.

Kevin Durant signed a two-year, $54.3 million deal with Golden State this summer.
Kevin Durant signed a two-year, $54.3 million deal with Golden State this summer.

The lofty scoring totals resulted in plenty of individual accolades for Durant, as he earned seven consecutive All-Star invitations, five scoring crowns and five selections to the All-NBA First Team.

Oklahoma City appeared to be on the verge of building a dynasty, as the team unexpectedly marched through the Western Conference en route to an appearance in the 2012 NBA Finals behind a core group of players featuring Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka.

All players were drafted by the Thunder and immediately evolved into major contributors for a championship caliber team by the age of 23.

The only obstacle the team couldn’t conquer came from the Miami Heat, featuring LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.

Four months after falling to Miami in five games during the 2012 NBA Finals, Oklahoma City dealt Harden to the Rockets after reaching a stalemate in contract negotiations.

The Thunder reached the Western Conference finals two more times since dealing away Harden, but never again played in the championship round.

In an attempt to appease Durant, the Thunder dealt Ibaka to Orlando on draft night, hoping a revamped roster would be enough to convince him to sign a contract extension.

The loss of Durant was somewhat eased when Westbrook ended any speculation about his future with the team, signing a three-year, $85.7 million extension.

Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook posted 18 triple-doubles last season, the highest total of any player in the past 30 years.
Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook posted 18 triple-doubles last season, the highest total of any player in the past 30 years.

During the press conference announcing the agreement, Westbrook revealed Durant never informed him of his decision to join the Warriors.

The NBA has plenty of star power, with nearly every team in the league boasting a player capable of earning an All-Star nomination, but few true rivalries.

Cleveland’s path to the NBA Finals each of the past two years featured just one repeat meeting in the post season: the Hawks.

The Cavaliers swept the series both times against Atlanta.

A rivalry between two teams from different conferences isn’t ideal, as the Warriors and Cleveland play just twice during the regular season and the NBA finals has yet to pit the same two teams against each other for three consecutive seasons.

Golden State and the Thunder are coming off an incredible series, with Oklahoma City actually averaging one more point per game in the seven game set.

Only the shift of Durant to a team featuring Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green provides plenty of storylines for the league to promote.

Retailers in Oklahoma City, scorned by the departure of the most popular player in the city, began selling Durant’s jersey for the low price of 48 cents.

The idea of delaying Durant’s return to Chesapeake Energy Arena until Feb. 4 — the 55th game of the season for the Thunder — makes little sense.

 

Durant could suffer an injury and miss the game.

The sting of his departure is still fresh and the fans in Oklahoma City should have the option of booing Durant immediately.

About Brendan Galella

Brendan Galella founded Shatter the Glass to make the NBA even more accessible to basketball fans. Composing player rankings, team evaluations and intriguing observations, he hopes to turn every reader into a dedicated and educated basketball follower.

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