- - Wednesday, May 24, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

“If you can dream — and not make dreams your master;

If you can think — and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same”

Including the one-word title, “if” appears 14 times in the classic 1895 poem by British Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling. The piece is a favorite among organizations that administer mentoring programs, rites-of-passage, etc., attempting to instill values like composure, perseverance and humility.

But “if” has a different purpose in sports, where’s it’s a highway for could’ve-would’ve-should’ve. That usage gives us endless opportunities to talk about teams and players at sports bars, on sports radio and in sports columns.

There’s no way to prove or disprove the arguments and their speculative suppositions.

No one knows for sure the outcome of something that didn’t happen. Yet, some of our favorite discussions are based on conjecture when the topic is sports. Maybe you’ve heard this one from time to time:

“If Kevin Durant had signed with the Wizards … “

The thought makes hearts race faster than they dropped when Durant declined even a meeting with his hometown team. Washington came within one game of the Eastern Conference finals without arguably the NBA’s second-best player. With him, the Wizards might have reached the NBA Finals and perhaps won.

Durant is still taking flack for leaving Oklahoma City to sign with Golden State. At an event I attended Tuesday night, a woman who said she’s a Celtics fan called Durant’s decision “a punk move.” On Monday, in a rant about Durant inviting fans to stop watching the playoffs, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said KD joining the Warriors is “the weakest move I have ever seen by any superstar in any sport.”

The criticism baffles me, especially since people make similar decisions all the time. Avis employees might go to Hertz for a better locale. Pepsi salespeople might move to Coca-Cola for a better work environment. Actuaries at Nationwide might accept positions at State Farm simply because the latter is No.1 in the field.

But players can’t win.

Carmelo Anthony stays in New York instead of joining a contender, and he’s criticized for lack of ambition. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh take less money to join forces, and they’re criticized for chasing rings. Hedo Turkoglu leaves a team that reached the NBA Finals (Orlando) for $53 million from a bottom-dweller (Toronto), and he’s criticized for chasing dollars.

“If that was me, I’d … “

Yeah, right. Those might be the five easiest words to utter. But I suspect many of the loudest critics would prefer the Bay Area opposed to Oklahoma City; choose New York/Miami opposed to fill-in-the-blank; opt for more money opposed to more victories.

“I made the 100 percent correct decision, win or lose,” Durant told The Undefeated on Sunday. “I feel like this is the place I was supposed to be. I appreciate everything I’ve done before this. But I’m here now, and I feel like it’s a great spot for me to be.

“This is where I am supposed to be at this point of my life. I’m taking it on and conquering every part of it. I’m enjoying every single step.”

He’s living in the present, dealing with reality, ignoring possibilities that didn’t become actualities. Wizards guard Bradley Beal might want to take a page from that book.

“If we had played Cleveland … “

Beal didn’t say those words exactly. But he suggested James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, et al feared Washington. Really?

“Cleveland didn’t want to see us,” Beal told CSN last week. “I always said that. I felt like that’s the reason they didn’t play us in the second round. … If they were going to go down, they were going to go down in the conference finals. They didn’t want to go down in the second round because they knew we would give them that competitiveness and that challenge.”

How can you sell woof tickets when the target is pre-occupied with the foe that vanquished you?

Yes, it seems evident that Washington would’ve been a tougher out for Cleveland. Administered truth serum, the Cavs might admit they preferred to face the Celtics instead of the Wizards in the Eastern Conference finals.

Regardless of the match-up, intimating that Cleveland was afraid is ludicrous.

“It makes absolutely no sense,” Cavs forward Richard Jefferson told CBS Sports. “A team that has won 10 in a row in the playoffs, the defending champions, didn’t want to see you, but you didn’t get out of the second round? … He wouldn’t say that before the series if he was going against ‘Bron. He can say it now that he’s out of harm’s way.”

True. But …

If the Wizards had Durant

Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

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