He was an assistant coach in Oklahoma City for only two seasons, but that was enough time for Robert Pack to understand what Kevin Durant meant to the place.
So Pack was surprised "like everybody else," he said Tuesday, when he learned that Durant would leave the Thunder and sign with the Golden State Warriors.
"Being in Oklahoma City, knowing how big a part of the community he was, I'm sure it's a difficult decision for him," Pack said. "But it's one that he's made now, and hopefully he makes the best of it over there."
Durant's decision sent shockwaves through the NBA on Monday, but Pack downplayed its significance to the playoff picture, noting that Golden State already was a powerhouse. Adding Durant, he said, "just made strong team a little stronger."
"It was a problem guarding them," Pack said. "It's probably a bigger problem now."
The bigger impact is on Oklahoma City, which, though it's left with All-Star Russell Westbrook, lost the franchise's signature player, a guy who'd been on the roster since the team relocated from Seattle in 2008.
"He had to do what's best for him, just as Kevin Durant, whatever's best for him," said Pelicans rookie Buddy Hield, who played his college ball at Oklahoma, about 30 minutes from Oklahoma City. "He's a great guy. Talking to him, he's a competitor. He'll do what's best for him. He's his own man."
And for Durant, what's best is pairing with a trio of stars – Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – who will make the Warriors heavy title favorites. Early odds from Bovada released on Tuesday had Golden State at 5/7 to win it all, ahead of defending champion Cleveland at 7/2.
"KD, he's been around a long time and hasn't had a chance to hoist that trophy, and I'm sure that was probably weighing on his mind," Pack said. "He sees an opportunity, he thinks, over there to get it done, so I'm imagining that's why he went there."
Players participating in Tuesday's opening day of Pelicans minicamp wore patches on their jerseys in tribute to former New Orleans player Bryce Dejean-Jones, who was shot and killed in Dallas in May.
The black patches – which were on both the white and navy blue practice jerseys players wore on Tuesday – have "BDJ" in white letters.
Pelicans center Alexis Ajinca did not make the final roster for the French national team's Olympic Qualifying Tournament team.
According to worldwide basketball site Sportando, Ajinca was among the final cuts from the French team, which will include NBA players Nicoals Batum, Boris Diaw, Joffrey Lauvergne and Tony Parker.