KD departs from OKC, a new era is born

By A. Suave Francisco

This has been by far the most challenging few weeks in my professional life. I understood cognitively that I was facing a crossroads in my evolution as a player and as a man, and that it came with exceptionally difficult choices. What I didn’t truly understand, however, was the range of emotions I would feel during this process.The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a player — as that has always steered me in the right direction. But I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth. With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors.I’m from Washington, D.C. originally, but Oklahoma City truly raised me. It taught me so much about family as well as what it means to be a man. There are no words to express what the organization and the community mean to me, and what they will represent in my life and in my heart forever. The memories and friendships are something that go far beyond the game. Those invaluable relationships are what made this deliberation so challenging.It really pains me to know that I will disappoint so many people with this choice, but I believe I am doing what I feel is the right thing at this point in my life and my playing career.I will miss Oklahoma City, and the role I have had in building this remarkable team. I will forever cherish the relationships within the organization — the friends and teammates that I went to war with on the court for nine years, and all the fans and people of the community. They have always had my back unconditionally, and I cannot be more grateful for what they have meant to my family and to me.
— Kevin Durant on joining the Golden State Warriors.

With that being said, Kevin Durant, an ambassador for the Oklahoma City community is gone...gone to the team that defeated the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals in dramatic fashion. 

That's why this hurts OKC so much, although KD leaving period would hurt, it definitely intensifies the blow knowing that he chose Golden State over a team he's helped build for years. 

All we can do at this point is somehow forget about this and move towards the future. The fact is, Oklahoma City looks to be back in familiar territory, where they were when Russell was a blossoming star during his first few years in the league. Except now, the Thunder have an MVP-caliber player in Russell Westbrook and a young guy entering his fourth NBA season in Victor Oladipo. The frontcourt still remains one of the best in the league, with Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Domantas Sabonis and Ersan Ilyasova.

The outcome of the Thunder roster remains uncertain. Will Russell take the contract extension? If not, the Thunder will look to trade him, according to ESPN. With a lot of unpredictability surrounding this Thunder organization right now, the only direction to look towards is the team we presently have, ignoring all the speculations until they happen. 

The best short-term scenario right now would be to go after long-time Dallas star and future Hall-of-Famer Dirk Nowitzki. That'll put a bandage on this cut and may provide efficient scoring in a better offense than Dallas'. Although he wouldn't be the Dirk we've all grown to love (or hate), he would definitely help this team offensively, now that 28.2 points per game just departed. 

Nevertheless, Russell now has a chance to be the player he's always wanted to be. It's been assumed that Russ wants to be 'the man', now he is. If set up correctly, Billy Donovan can change the entire identity of this Thunder team, a team formerly known as a fast-paced offense that relied on Kevin and Russell's prolific scoring ability are now forced to embrace the rest of the team. Hopefully now, there will be more team-ball played, instead of hero-ball. 

Looking at the starters and key role players now: 
G: Russell Westbrook- 26.0 points, 11.0 rebounds per game.
G: Victor Oladipo- 16 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists.
F: Andre Roberson- 5.6 points, 5.6 rebounds.
F: Enes Kanter- 9.4 points, 6.2 rebounds. 
C: Steven Adams- 10.1 points, 9.5 rebounds. 

Role Players

G: Dion Waiters- 8.4 points.
F: Domantas Sabonis- Rookie (maybe a starter).
F: Anthony Morrow- 2.6 points. 
G: Randy Foye- 2.5 points. 
F: Ersan Ilyasova- 10.4 points, 5.4 rebounds. 
G: Cameron Payne- 1.8 points. 

This roster may look bleak now, but Kevin was just one player...a very talented player, but just one. The past two seasons, many thought Russell was No. 1 on this team and that's what I believe as well. As everyone witnessed, they didn't get to the Western Conference Finals and go up 3-1 on the Warriors solely because of Kevin Durant. Russell Westbrook and the role players were the difference, and our bench got better when Ilyasova and Sabonis joined the team.

This hurts, bad. Don't get me wrong. Kevin Durant isn't just a basketball player to Oklahoma City, he was an ambassador and a pioneer in building a small city into one of the NBA's best. This is the first major heartbreak for this young franchise. James Harden's departure hurt, but this trumps that pain two-fold.  Although a championship season looks unlikely in 2016-2017, the future of this team still remains in good hands, pending Russell Westbrook extending his contract, or re-signing at the end of next season. Sam Presti is a smart man as well and surely has an alternate plan up his sleeve.