NBA Rumor: Kevin Durant to Warriors

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He is a spokesman for chocolate milk and an obscure — in the U.S. anyway — Chinese shoe company. He signed an $80 million, 10-year extension to wear the sneakers. “Life’s good,” Thompson said. “I never thought I’d get paid millions of dollars to wear shoes and apparel. I’m very proud to be a part of Anta. … It’s so cool that I’m big in China. I never thought I’d be on billboards and posters in China.”

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“I’m not coming into a team where a guy is playing my position and we have try to fit in two guys playing the same position,” Durant told The Vertical. “I’m not coming in trying to play the point guard, trying to play the shooting guard. I’m a small forward. The team didn’t have a small forward when I signed. Steph, Klay, Draymond, the bigs, we all play different positions. Whether it’s minutes, shots, opportunities, any good team will have players sacrificing. That’s the nature of the game. I’m not coming into a game saying that I need my 18 shots and I need to get to the line 12 times. I let the game flow naturally.”

“If you like basketball. If you enjoy basketball,” Durant said. “But if you enjoy the drama and everything that comes around, the narratives, the comparisons and the rankings, obviously, it’s going to be like a TV show to you. If you enjoy pure basketball, like I enjoy it, then it don’t matter who is playing. You’re going to want to watch good basketball. If you enjoy basketball in its purest form, you can appreciate how far our league has come and the great players in our league. But if you enjoy all that [expletive] that comes from the outside, then you’ll love the boos and the tweets and the first takes and all that. I love basketball and I love whoever loves the game in its purest form.”

The first day, though, was not easy. At his introductory press conference, Durant sat stiffly atop the dais, bracing for the inevitable queries about shortcuts to titles. When Kerr suggested he might bring his shiny new acquisition off the bench, everybody laughed except Durant, causing the coach to clarify. “I’m joking,” he said. Eventually, Durant warmed up. “We live in this superhero comic book world,” he said, “where you’re either a villain or you’re a superhero…I trusted my gut. I trusted my instincts. It’s the unpopular decision. But I can live with it.” From the Philippines, where Canada participated in an Olympic qualifying tournament, Nash downplayed his friend’s quest for NBA gold. “I think it was as much a personal move for his happiness and development as it was to win,” Nash told reporters.

Executives who saw Durant over the weekend, in the mansion off the beach, say he looked drained. He was sitting through as many as six hours of meetings per day, while simultaneously hearing from the Warriors, whose pitch never really ended. Iguodala told Durant he’d have the time of his life in Golden State. Curry insisted he’d be embraced immediately. The Warriors’ incumbent star swore he didn’t care about billboards or shoe sales. He just wanted banners. Durant, already seduced by the Dubs’ rollicking offensive system, was sold.

When nine Thunder officials visited Durant on Sunday afternoon, hoping for the last word, they realized they were too late. Durant woke up July 4 at 7 a.m. with his decision made. Informing Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti, Durant said, was the hardest thing he’s ever done. Calling Myers was even a struggle. “I just want to say you guys are a great first-class organization,” he told the Warriors GM. “It was great getting to know you….but.”

How did you pitch him? Stephen Curry: We were just ourselves. All we did was pretty much talk. We told him how things would be, how we operated and how he would fit in. He would fit right in. He’s a team guy. That’s who he really is. We told him he wouldn’t have to change anything and we wouldn’t have to change anything for him. He just fits right in. We just told him to do what is best for you. We wanted him, that’s why we were all there. But we wanted him to do what was best for him. At the ed of the day, he made a decision that he thought was best for him.

“We live in this superhero comic book world where either you’re a villain or you’re a superhero if you’re in this position, and I know that,” Durant said. “And I know I haven’t changed as a person. I don’t treat people any differently because I made the decision to play basketball in another city. I understand the fans in Oklahoma City and basketball fans around the world are, I guess, upset, but like I said, I made the decision based upon what I wanted to do and how I felt.”

Count Rockets forward Michael Beasley as someone who thinks Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder for the Warriors as a good decision. Beasley and Durant are childhood friends, growing up in the Maryland/Washington D.C. area. The two also played on the same AAU team. “I think it was an awesome decision for him,” Beasley said Wednesday. “I think that was probably the coolest thing the sports world has seen in a long time. You get the best team and you always get the best player on the best team, it set the whole league on a tilt.

Reggie Miller: But the media, of which I am a part, always says, “Well, he never won a championship.” And I get that; I understand that. Not winning a championship burns me to this day. After reaching six Eastern Conference Finals and an NBA Finals only to finish without a title, I sympathize with Durant’s dilemma. A rebound, loose ball, free throw, missed assignment, missed box-out can change everything. Being so close and ultimately losing sucks. Nevertheless, it was the fight to put Indiana on the map that, in my mind, is my greatest accomplishment.

Gilbert Arenas: Who ever thinks #Kevin is a coward for leaving #YourStupid…Media has FOOLED you for decades..they have made you believe that the best players and smartest are champions….if you didnt win a ring you’re legacy is incomplete. #CBarkley #Ewing #Cwebb #A.I #ReggieM etc cant be the best of the best because they didnt win a ring BUT no one has EVER mentioned the (Business of Basketball) only 5 % of sports owners wanna win CHAMPIONSHIPS and will SPEND the money to do so. #Lakers #GS #spurs #Dallas #Miami #NYK then u have the (Lets just make the playoffs group

Durant wanted an offense that kept the ball moving and provided him easier scoring chances. The Thunder fired coach Scott Brooks and brought in Billy Donovan, and still the offense stalled out at key moments, often with Westbrook dribbling into oblivion. The Thunder led the NBA in blown fourth-quarter leads last season, according to Darnell Mayberry of NewsOK.com, despite their firepower. “Ultimately, he got frustrated and felt that they had plateaued,” said a person with insight into Durant’s thought process. “[Donovan] came in, and he still had the same issues that he had with Russ under Scotty. The offense didn’t change much. He still had to take a ton of contested shots every game; and that’s when he had the ball at all.”

Privately, Durant was annoyed with a perceived media infatuation with the Warriors and Curry. He joked about how the Warriors were suddenly the “poster child” for the league. He expressed angst to friends about how the Warriors could seemingly do no wrong. He had come off a 2014-15 season from hell — three surgeries on his foot in the wake of his triumphant MVP, an award he desperately wanted. He was supposed to be Curry — the aw-shucks golden child who plowed his way through the league and dethroned LeBron James. Instead, he was in a boot watching Curry win an MVP and a championship.

Mitch McGary learned of the news when his phone kept buzzing him up from a nap. Payne learned of it on the bus to shootaround. “The whole country was shell shocked,” Payne said. “So you definitely know we were. It’s something you never expect.” A day later, it’s still weird. “Just to scroll on Instagram and to see a picture of Kev and the Warriors,” Payne shook his head. “It’s nothing you can control. It’s a business … It’s crazy how quick things change. But you just gotta move forward.”

The Mayor of Oklahoma City is concerned for Kevin Durant — telling TMZ Sports he thinks KD got “bad advice” about leaving town … adding, “I suspect it won’t work out.” We spoke with Mayor Mick Cornett — a huge sports fan who also used to be a sports anchor — who tells us he loves KD as a person, but believes the move to Golden State is a mistake. “Nothing in this is Kevin’s fault,” Cornett says. “My only observation is … I think he may have gotten bad advice and I suspect it won’t work out.” “Now, I could be wrong but that’s what it feels like to me. I think he got bad advice.”

Q: From the human standpoint, Sam, before you even think about the roster and the future and the organization, how did this news hit you and where does it leave you? Sam Presti: “Well obviously disappointed, but also very respectful of the fact that Kevin had earned the right to make the best decision for himself. And I also think it’s an opportunity to reflect on what he was so integral in building. It’s very rare that a player essentially gets to found a franchise, and see it to the heights that we’ve been fortunate enough to achieve. Four out of six Western Conference Finals, a trip to the Finals, the fourth best record in professional sports over the past six seasons, with San Antonio, New England, and Green Bay. He was truly one of the founding fathers of the program, along with Russell and Nick Collison. So there’s disappointment that that chapter has ended, but also respect for his service and his commitment.

Presti: “Like I said before, it’s disappointing that his tenure with the organization has come to a close. But in his final season, and what I felt like was maybe his best season as a franchise we were 7-5 in the postseason against the Spurs and the Warriors. Offensively, we were incredibly successful against two of the better defenses in the league in back to back series. I think the outcome surely is disappointing, but the mettle and the spirit and the focus that that particular team showed throughout the season and into the postseason was one of the finer moments in the evolution of the organization – if not its finest moments, given the competition we were facing and the way we handled it with poise and composure and toughness.”

Q: Did you chat with him after Kevin’s decision? Presti: “Obviously (because Presti was) flying back from New York, I haven’t spoken with him. I’ve texted with him, and he and I have been in contact, as I have been with a lot of our players through this process. This is a group of people who have been through quite a bit together, so he and I will have our conversation, and reflect on it, but I would let Russell convey and express however he feels.”

While Durant was said to have enjoyed the presence of the Patriots quarterback, he may have been more impressed with the chance to not just join a winner but be the major part in building one. “He’s told people for a while that he likes that whole Celtics thing and the tradition and the way the people there are into the team — all the teams up there,” said a league source. “But I still think he was looking out West. The part I don’t know is how much the Horford signing made him stop and think again about Boston, but I think it had to be some.”

Said another source, a call from Warriors exec Jerry West smoothed over any issues Durant may have had. “I think that was important,” he said. “I think Kevin was interested in Golden State big time as the playoffs went on, but if he had any doubts, I think hearing from someone of Jerry West’s stature was important. When Jerry talks, you listen. Some young guys may not get how big a deal Jerry West is, but Kevin is a bright guy and he’s into the history of the game. He knows what Jerry West is to basketball.

The Jerry West phone call really made a difference. “The Logo,” as the NBA legend/Warriors executive board member/part owner is informally known, had a phone conversation that lasted approximately 30 minutes with Durant on Saturday. The Warriors had asked Durant if he wanted to talk to West, and he obliged. And how’s this for unexpected? West never once told Durant that he should sign with the Warriors. Instead, in what was clearly a theme of Durant’s decision-making process, they discussed what was best for his growth and happiness as a player.

According to a person who saw the text messages, Curry told Durant in a text message that he could care less about who is the face of the franchise, who gets the most recognition or who sells the most shoes (Curry is with Under Armor, Durant with Nike). The two-time NBA MVP also told Durant that if Durant won the MVP award again he would be in the front row of the press conference clapping for him. In closing, Curry’s message to Durant was that all he truly cared about was winning championships and he’d like to do that as his teammate.
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December 4, 2021 | 8:41 pm EST Update