USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick discusses Westbrook’s emotions leading up to Durant’s return to OKC on Saturday night.
USA TODAY Sports
OKLAHOMA CITY – Kevin Durant has at least one ally tonight.
Meet Lainey Orr, an 11-year-old Oklahoma City Thunder fan who – unlike so many of the locals who will boo him mercilessly tonight when he returns to Chesapeake Energy Arena for the first time as a member of the Golden State Warriors – is standing by his side.
“It was his decision (to leave),” said Orr, wearing the familiar blue and yellow No. 35 Durant jersey from his Thunder days while waiting outside the Warriors’ team hotel hoping he’d come out for an autograph. “Maybe he just didn’t feel like OKC was the right place for him. I did get mad at first though, and then I got over it. I’m still his fan.”
And if you listen closely tonight, she’ll be one of the few cheering through all those boos.
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“They’re going to be really mean,” Lainey said with a smile. “I’m just going to cheer him on. I’m just going to try to yell to him, ‘It’s ok, KD!’ He probably won’t hear me, but I can try.”
In the hours leading up to the most-anticipated regular season game on the NBA schedule, Durant loyalists were hard to find in this city where he spent the past eight seasons.
There were a few folks sporting Durant’s Warriors jersey in town, mostly those who stood with Orr hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite players.
There was plenty of anti-Durant sentiment to be seen, of course. At the Texadelphia restaurant in the city’s Bricktown district, workers all sported t-shirts that read, “CHOK3 ARTI5T.” Another local favorite t-shirt, which was featured on ESPN’s SportsCenter had “KOWARD” on the front and a picture of a cupcake on the back (see the backstory of that Durant slight here
A local steakhouse owner even denied Durant’s business for fear that he would upset Thunder players and fans. But Orr, who made the 4 ½ hour trip with her father, Mike, from their hometown of Kansas City for the game on Friday, has long since forgiven Durant for heading West. Even if she didn’t feel that way when he announced the choice back on July 4.
“She got really angry, because we saw it on TV,” Mike Orr said. “She brought the jersey down from her room and she said, ‘I don’t want this anymore.’ And that lasted about two hours. And then she was ok.”
Follow Sam Amick on Twitter @sam_amick.