Steve Kerr denies Warriors were furious at Thunder after Kevin Durant's return to OKC
Golden State coach Steve Kerr called Oklahoma City a first-class organization
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr denied Monday that his team is upset with the Oklahoma City Thunder because of how the organization handled Kevin Durant’s return to Chesapeake Energy Arena in February. Kerr told reporters that Oklahoma City is a “first-class organization” and he is friends with Thunder general manager Sam Presti, via the San Jose Mercury News’ Anthony Slater.
On Sunday, ESPN’s Chris Haynes reported that the Warriors were collectively “furious and bewildered” that Oklahoma City did not do more to acknowledge Durant’s contributions to the franchise or encourage fans to treat him with respect. No players or team personnel were directly quoted in the story.
Sources say the Warriors were of the mindset that someone from ownership or management should have addressed the media on Durant’s behalf to help ease the tension upon his return.
The feeling is that Durant should have been acknowledged or thanked, in a news conference setting, for his nine years of excellent service.
The Warriors’ belief, according to sources, is that the Thunder’s silence contributed to the raw emotions, outrage and indignation that created an unsettling, hostile atmosphere for a player many consider to be the franchise’s all-time best.
The Warriors felt, according to sources, that for a player who meant so much to a city -- a small-market city at that -- a courtesy greeting was in order from top brass, who should have issued their fans a reminder and proper perspective on Durant’s role in elevating the Thunder into a perennial championship-contending team.
Kerr said he had not read the story, but Golden State vice president of communications Raymond Ridder had told him about it.
“I don’t agree,” Kerr said. “Sam Presti is a friend of mine. I know [owner] Clay Bennett. It’s a class organization all the way, so I don’t really pay any attention to a story like that unless there’s an actual name that’s put on it. So I assume it’s just sources? Was it ‘sources?’ Yeah. So I don’t know who that is. It’s nobody with the Warriors. We have great respect for the Thunder. Sam’s been a friend of mine forever. They’re first-class. I don’t know where that comes from.”
After the Warriors beat the Thunder 130-114 on Feb. 11, some players did seem taken aback by the hostile atmosphere. Golden State forward Draymond Green , and several players gleefully donned cupcake T-shirts, mocking the fans who were mocking Durant. No one, however, directly said that the organization should be held accountable for what happened.
It doesn’t exactly seem preposterous for some Warriors to feel that Durant was done wrong. They shouldn’t be expected to be impartial here, and they do have a point: the Thunder could have welcomed him back with a tribute video, and they could have tried to dissuade the crowd from being rude. The sparse public comments from Russell Westbrook about the matter have not exactly done anything to calm people down, either.
Is it Oklahoma City’s responsibility to do all that, though? On the Fourth of July, Presti spoke glowingly about Durant as a player and a person. He expressed appreciation for everything Durant did there. He also said that the franchise would move on, and that’s what is happening now. If fans are angry, it is not necessarily the job of Presti -- or anyone in the Thunder organization -- to tell them not to be.
From Kerr’s perspective, all of this seems like just another distraction. Golden State plays OKC on Monday, and without Durant playing, it’s a less exciting matchup, but until this report, it was more or less just about basketball. Kerr probably would have preferred it had remained that way.
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