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Kevin Durant defends LeBron James: ‘I don’t know what the big deal is’

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LeBron James has been on the receiving end of some criticism over his decision to exercise the early termination clause in his contract with the Miami Heat and opting to pursue free agency. Whether it’s fair or not, it’s hardly surprising. Nothing a person of James’ stature does occurs in a vacuum, and each and every “decision” LeBron comes with detractors.

Some may argue that because of how he has conducted himself at points during his career — with “The Decision” being the crowning moment highlighting his hubris — LeBron has made his bed and now he has to sleep in it and is deserving of all the vitriol heaped upon him.

And yet, there is one person LeBron can count on, though, to have his back is one of his rivals for the best basketball player on planet, at least during last season: Kevin Durant.

The Oklahoma City Thunder scoring machine stepped up and defended his superstar colleague, arguing that it isn’t fair to criticize James for opting out, something  he had every right to do according to the terms of the deal both he and the Miami Heat agreed upon when he took his talents to South Beach.

Durant makes the compelling argument that James isn’t the first player to switch teams, nor is he the first player to opt-out, so why is he such a lightning rod for criticism when he does those things?

“I don’t know what the big deal is,” Durant said, shortly after his “KD7″ was revealed. “You know, as a player, I think that’s the best way to go about it. You can have all your options. It’s better for you as a player to opt-out, because you can get a market deal, you can get more years. You never know what will happen if you pass up on that. So I didn’t know what the big deal was. I’m sure it was a decision he made — something he was thinking about — for him and his family..

“I don’t think it’s fair,” Durant told a small group of local reporters. “I don’t think anything that you guys criticize LeBron [about] is fair. He switched teams; he’s not the first guy to do it. He decided to opt out; he’s not the first guy to do it. Sometimes a lot of people criticize him a little bit too much for doing normal things, doing stuff that everybody has done. [Even] Tim Duncan went into free agency before. He got courted by quite a few teams. We’ll see what happens with me, but everybody’s done the same thing. He’s not the first.”

Well stated. Of course, what Durant had to say in defense of LeBron should come with one caveat: He realizes he’ll be subjected to the very same potentially hostile environment, prone to the same kind of criticism and perhaps even face the wrath of fans in a few years when he has to decide what he is going to do regarding his next contract.

Durant, when faced with his own version of “The Decision” in 2016, almost certainly will opt out, but it will have nothing to do with his interest in leaving OKC and taking his talents elsewhere. Instead, it is because under the new CBA, he only can make more money and sign for a longer term — even if he stays with the Thunder — by doing so.

It will be interesting to see how such a well-liked player will be treated by the media and fans if he elects to go a similar route as LeBron James. It’s almost a lock that he won’t be treated as harshly as King James, no matter what.

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