OKLAHOMA CITY — Kevin Durant and his business manager, Rich Kleiman, are taking preventive safety measures as Durant heads back to Oklahoma City for the first time as a member of the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.
A heightened armed security team has been procured, tripling the normal amount of security personnel the Warriors typically travel with, league sources told ESPN.
During what is expected to be an emotionally charged, contentious scene at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Kleiman — who orchestrated Durant’s free-agent meetings in The Hamptons last offseason — will sit next to Durant’s mother, Wanda, sources said.
A group of security officials will be strictly assigned to ensure they’re supervised and protected throughout the course of the game, sources said.
The Warriors will not have shootaround, being that it’s the second game of a back-to-back. However, Durant “won’t be locked in his hotel room,” a source said. He plans to venture out into the city to a certain extent. To what extent is unknown.
Due to a tight window in Oklahoma City, Kleiman will make the rounds on Durant’s behalf at the various foundations and organizations the superstar continues to support, a source said. Durant wanted to make sure that at least an extension of himself made an appearance while the Warriors are in town.
And to help further educate himself on the hostile, mean-spirited treatment he might receive once he takes the court, Durant recently reached out to Rich Paul, the agent for LeBron James, league sources told ESPN.
James and Paul know firsthand what it’s like to walk into a sold-out arena filled with furious, jilted individuals.
In the conversation, as relayed to ESPN, Paul stressed to Durant the importance of hiring additional security staff, keeping his emotions in check, monitoring his family’s whereabouts, moving precisely in the arena and not reacting to insults. Paul also reminded him to show his appreciation to the city and organization, and reminded him that as long as he’s happy with his decision, he doesn’t owe anybody anything.
Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale was an assistant with the Miami Heat when James went back to Cleveland for his first game as a South Beach resident.
He says he doesn’t think Durant’s situation will be as bad as James had it.
“I remember coaching LeBron during a dead ball this close to each other and a battery flew between us,” Fizdale told ESPN. “A nine-volt, and hit the floor. It was crazy. I don’t think his situation is as volatile as that. And I think OKC fans, they’re upset about it, but they got like a college fan base. They’re just there to root their team on and really support their team. He’s going to get booed of course, but I don’t think it will be as volatile.”
League sources said Kevin Durant also recently reached out to Rich Paul, LeBron James’ agent, for advice on handling a jilted crowd. Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images
Draymond Green told ESPN, “We’re just there to play basketball. That’s it.”
Durant said he was most looking forward to reconnecting with the ushers, the arena security and the season-ticket holders. Those are the people who watched him grow as person and who truly know his heart, he said.
When ESPN asked Andre Iguodala about whether safety would be a concern Saturday, he replied, “For me, it’s just another game. I mean, if I’m supposed to die over basketball, I’m supposed to die. So I guess it’s over with. But I’m not going to change my approach.
“If we didn’t play basketball, they wouldn’t give a damn about who we were as people. No one would invest any time in us, [and] who we are. But I guess we give them an outlet or an escape from their lives. They’re emotionally attached to us. But when we do things that aren’t in their best interest, there’s an action and a reaction. This is the case tomorrow. This is kind of the world we live in right now.”
No one truly knows what to expect, but Durant and Kleiman have done their parts in attempting to prepare for the unexpected.
“It’s definitely going to be emotional,” Durant said Friday, later adding, “I’m not going to change how I prepare, [not going to] change how I play. I’m going to play my game and worry about basketball. That’s all I can do.”
“I just wish Zaza [Pachulia] was playing,” Green told ESPN with a massive grin. ” ‘I’m going to get him back,’ ” Green mimicked, referring to Russell Westbrook making that comment last month about retaliating on Pachulia for laying him out with a hard collision and then standing over him.
Pachulia didn’t make this trip because of a right rotator cuff strain.
“That’s what I want to see,” Green continued. “I wish Zaza was here.”