VIDEO: Wizards, Thunder square off tonight in NBA TV’s Fan Night game
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The chatter is inevitable.
And it won’t go away anytime soon.
Never mind the seasons to be played for both the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Washington Wizards, combatants tonight at the Verizon Center (7 p.m., ET for Fan Night on NBA TV).
Thunder superstar Kevin Durant is making his final trip home to the nation’s capitol before he hits free agency in the summer, when the Wizards (and all other interested parties) will pursue one of the best players in the game.
But what could be a season-long distraction for both sides should be anything but, given the way Durant and the Wizards are handling things. Durant has made a point of not entertaining the subject as best he can, going so far as calling it “disrespectful” for Wizards fans to prioritize him or any other free agent over rooting for their own team, which has been a rising force in the Eastern Conference the past two seasons.
To their credit, the Wizards are doing the same. Bradley Beal agreed with Durant, telling The Washington Post:
“It is disrespectful because he plays for Oklahoma City,” Beal said Monday. “He doesn’t play for Washington.”
Once the final buzzer sounds tonight, both teams can put this media circus aside for the foreseeable future and return to the business at hand. For the Thunder, that means attempting to return to their lofty status among the Western Conference elite. For the Wizards, they want to occupy a similar place in the Eastern Conference.
Barring a matchup in The Finals, the only time this particular storyline will be revisited before the summer is in the lead up to a Feb. 1 matchup between the two in Oklahoma City.
That said, their seasons will be inextricably linked all the way until July, when free agency kicks off in its usual crazy mode. Then, and only then, will we get a full understanding of what the future holds for Durant and his hometown team.
Right now his focus is on the Thunder and how they navigate the early stages of this season under new coach Billy Donovan. There are chemistry issues that need to be resolved, adjustments to be made by role players and stars alike, a collective comfort zone to be located.
Durant will stay busy reminding us all that no matter where he plays, he remains one of the league’s most lethal weapons. For he and fellow superstar Russell Westbrook, chasing the Golden State Warriors for that No. 1 spot in the Western Conference is their first and only priority.
Beal, All-Star point guard John Wall and the Wizards have business of their own to tend to in advance of free agency, first and foremost proving that they are a force to be reckoned with in the East. And that’s with or without any additional superstar help, and no matter what kind of external hype is swirling around them.
“It’s the same I said last year,” Wall told The Post. “We can’t worry about what Kevin Durant’s doing. He’s worried about his OKC team and me and Brad and the other 13 guys on the team, we’re worried about the Washington Wizards.” We’re not here to tank and not try to make the playoffs and not try to win a championship and do those things.”
That’s the right attitude, because the chatter is inevitable.
And even if it’s absent from the headlines for a while, it won’t end anytime soon.
VIDEO: John Wall and the Wizards topped Kevin Durant and the Thunder in their matchup at Verizon Center last season