Adrian Wojnarowski got to the heart of the matter on Tuesday in his newsmaker column on Kevin Durant.
Part of the magic of Woj — why he is held in such high esteem in the NBA community and in the journalistic community at large — is that he can write a column in which substantial pieces of insight can become sidebar notes on a comparative scale.
Everyone who closely follows the NBA has read Woj’s explosive column on Kevin Durant, and how the Golden State Warriors are in the best position to land him if KD leaves the Thunder:
— The Vertical (@TheVertical) February 2, 2016
There’s certainly a measure of news analysis in the column, but its centerpiece is the reportage which creates a larger architecture of reality. From this foundational structure, Woj was able to make some clear and convincing conclusions about Durant’s free agency, and how the superstar intends to handle it.
Naturally, the Golden State angle was the lead item, but not too far behind lay a couple of details which could have created substantial stand-alone columns in their own right. One of those items: Durant’s simply not going to put the Los Angeles Lakers anywhere near the top of his list. The Lakers’ chances of luring durant to Southern California are not as high as the Clippers’ odds. Woj might as well have inserted a laughing-face emoji into the Laker-related portions of his column. That’s what he essentially thinks about the organization’s chances of securing KD.
Here’s the first fundamental point to realize about the coming summer:
Durant — by all accounts and measurements, a relatively thoughtful and considerate individual who has cultivated strong relationships in Oklahoma City, on and off the court — is not going to make a rash decision this July.
That alone could be cited as a sufficient reason to silence any talk about Durant donning the purple and gold. However, for the sake of clarity, let’s briefly underscore why the Lakers are a non-factor in the Durant sweepstakes, and should not be considered a relevant player.
The case for Durant’s upcoming decision begins and ends with championship aspirations. This might seem too obvious, but the finer point to make is that Durant is 27.
When did LeBron James win his first NBA title? 27… and that’s without playing college ball. LeBron won that title in his ninth season as a pro. That’s a journey of almost a full decade to get to one — only one — Larry O’Brien Trophy. LeBron won a second one, but with the Golden State Warriors towering above the rest of the NBA at the moment, the chase for a third title and future riches is going to be fraught with difficulty. Yes, LeBron is likely to win at least 10 Eastern Conference championships before his career is done, but that’s a great appendage to a legacy, not the cornerstone of one. The clock is ticking even now for LeBron, at 31.
Don’t think Durant, at 27 and trapped in a Warriors-Spurs Western Conference — doesn’t absorb the full measure of what’s happening in the NBA, especially in relationship to his ability to win a championship.
Golden State is a compelling option. So is Oklahoma City, where he’s joined by two other world-class players, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. Washington’s mess of a season, and the utter lack of frontcourt consistency on the Wizards’ roster, make D.C. a very hard sell for Durant in terms of lifting championship trophies. OKC and Oakland are both much more attractive destinations.
Yet, compared to the Lakers, Washington must feel like paradise. At least the idea of an NBA Finals appearance — with John Wall and Bradley Beal — could be taken seriously in our nation’s capital. In the non-Clipper version of Los Angeles, what single shred of credibility is left?
The Laker organization — the one led by Jim Buss, not Jerry; the one where Kobe Bryant is leaving the scene, stage right; the one where Jerry West is no longer using his skill and expertise to guide operations; the one where coach Byron Scott is killing the confidence of D’Angelo Russell, and is not being fired as a result — is a total dumpster-fire right now. The Lakers might “overtake” (perhaps the word “undertake” should be ironically used here) the Philadelphia 76ers for the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft, but without a strong head coach and a developed core, the Lakers are fooling themselves if they think they’ll be close to a championship — with or without Durant — in the next five years.
That’s basically what Adrian Wojnarowski concluded.
Is Woj wrong?
Sure, Woj isn’t perfect or infallible — none of us are — but that’s still a rhetorical question, for all intents and purposes, in today’s NBA.
The Lakers are in deep trouble… and in their hubris, expecting to be a lead player in Durantapalooza, they don’t seem to realize it.