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What to expect in Kevin Durant’s 2nd trip back to Oklahoma City

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A different level of maturity is expected from both KD and Thunder fans, but the wounds still haven’t fully healed.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant will make his second trip to Oklahoma City since leaving the Thunder franchise in the summer of 2016 on Wednesday (8 p.m., ESPN). Though his second return — he missed the March game between the two teams last year due to injury — probably won’t bring the theatrics it did last year, there will always be bad blood between Durant, his old fans, and Russell Westbrook. That won’t change any time soon.

This year is different though, as Westbrook’s two new superstar teammates — Paul George and Carmelo Anthony — add a pair of new characters to the fold, not yet entrenched in the animosity of the OKC-KD drama.

Those two became witnesses like the rest of the world to how much hate there was between Durant, Westbrook and the people of OKC in Durant’s first return. Now they’ll be thrown into the equation of what will become an annual slugfest with a playoff atmosphere.

Game info

Time: 8 p.m.
TV channel: ESPN
Streaming: WatchESPN

What happened last year?

Last year’s matchup was dramatic in ways that had little to do with the game, which the Warriors won, 130-114.

Fans wore shirts (including the famous KowarD ones) and made posters slighting Durant. They brought the online tradition of calling him a “snake” for leaving to reality, by holding actual snakes outside the arena.

That was just the beginning.

He was returned home with a heaping of ‘Boos’ and later on Durant and Westbrook got into a shouting match.

Cupcakes stole the show, though. It was Westbrook who posted cupcakes on Instagram shortly after Durant’s announcement, a possible nod to former teammate Kendrick Perkins’ habit of calling the two “cupcakes” when he felt they were being soft. That influenced OKC fans to print cupcakes graphics on shirts. It also birthed a cupcake mascot.

Golden State got the last laugh after the game, though. The Warriors wore cupcake shirts after it won to have its teammate’s back and to prove they were the pettiest team in America.

It was a wild 24 hours in OKC.

What’s changed since?

Durant now has the championship he came to Golden State to seek, plus a Finals MVP. He alienated himself to an entire state, but if the goal of any players is to win, there’s no denying he made the right basketball move. Westbrook is also now the reigning MVP, having exploded statistically without Durant.

Over the summer, Perkins revealed that Durant and Westbrook are on speaking terms again, which Paul George also hinted at. However, we’ve yet to see any public conversation between the two. Even if Westbrook is on better terms with Durant, the people of OKC won’t be.

It’s possible they’ll be worried more about their own team. Anthony and George were supposed to propel the Thunder into the conference finals conversations, but the team is off to a 7-9 start and has struggled in crunch time. Will playing against Golden State spark anything?

What new fuel has been added to the fire?

If Oklahoma City fans want to continue heckling Durant from the crowd, they have no shortage of material. The cupcakes may be past their prime, but Durant’s fake social media accounts are brutally embarrassing and a good way for fans pick up where they left off. We should probably expect these jokes.

Also, don’t forget that OKC gave P.J. Dozier, an undrafted rookie, Durant’s No. 35 jersey.

What’s Durant said about OKC?

In an interview with Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher, Durant spoke of his love for OKC that has persisted throughout the drama.

I am OKC. I'm still OKC. That blue is going to be in my blood forever. That place raised me. I have people there who would take a bullet for me and vice versa. But there's a point in a young man's life, just like when he goes off to college, or when he moves to another city to get a job, he's got to make a decision for himself. You've got to make a decision that's best for yourself and you would expect the people that love you the most to say they understand.

He also spoke about the feuds not being that serious and how’s he’s changed his perspective since coming to that realization.

"I didn't have that perspective at first. I didn't have it when I went back to OKC. I was like, 'F--k all of them.' I didn't have it when they gave my number away. I was, 'F--k all of them.' My best friend works for the team, I told him, 'F--k all y'all. That's f--ked up.' Then I had to get out of my head, tell myself, 'It's not that serious, it is what it is.' I understand it's not my number anymore, they can do whatever they want with it, but you hand that number to a two-way player, you've got to be, like, 'Nah, we've got too many good memories with this number, man.' But at some point, that thing's going to be in the rafters anyway; it's all good. I did something they didn't like. They did something I didn't like. S--t happens. If I was on my death bed, I guarantee you Sam Presti and Russell Westbrook would come check on me. So I'm going to look at it that way rather than the other way."

So will Durant’s second game in OKC be just a game?

Maybe, but the fire is still there. And with these two teams, the pettiness level is bound to stay through the roof.

Get ready.