The big news heading into Tuesday night’s NBA opener is what will perennial All-Star forward Kevin Durant do next summer.
Durant has played his entire career with the Seattle/Oklahoma City franchise and has become one of the game’s most dominant players. But he grew up in the Washington D.C. area, and there has been rampant speculation that he could jump ship and sign a free agent contract with the Washington Wizards next year.
In 2014, Durant discussed Oklahoma City with Spike Lee on Sirius XM radio: “The city fits me. I’m one of those guys that just likes to chill. That’s exactly how the town is.
“The people are supportive. The fans are there all the time at the games; every game feels like it’s a sellout. They just support us so much.”
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Durant missed 55 games last season following foot surgery, and the Thunder finished with a 45-37 record and tied New Orleans for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot. But they lost out on a playoff berth via the tiebreaker process.
With Durant back, making the playoffs should be easier for the Thunder. It’s keeping him beyond this season that will be a challenge.
Five things to watch
Can the Warriors repeat? Golden State won its first NBA title in 40 years. The Warriors return their top nine players in terms of minutes played last season, including reigning league MVP Stephen Curry and backcourt mate Klay Thompson.
What impact will LaMarcus Aldridge have in San Antonio? Perhaps the biggest off-season move was Aldridge leaving Portland to sign a free-agent contract with the Spurs. Adding Aldridge to Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard and newcomer David West should make the Spurs a formidable foe.
Can LeBron James bring home a title? James returned to Cleveland last season but was unable to deliver a title. Having a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love back should help his cause as Cleveland once again appears to be a lock to reach the NBA Finals in the tissue-soft Eastern Conference.
Will Chris Paul make a deep playoff run? Forget about winning an NBA championship. Will this be the season Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul finally gets out of the second round of the playoffs? The fourth overall pick of the 2005 draft, Paul has never advanced to a conference final.
Will Durant stay? After missing 55 games last season with a foot injury, Durant is hoping to lead the Thunder and new coach Billy Donovan to their first NBA title. But the big question is whether Durant will leave OKC after this season when he becomes a free agent.