It’s pretty lame for a sportswriter, or anyone else, to play amateur psychologist after watching a game, let alone a press conference. But Kevin Durant sure seemed at ease today during his introduction to the Bay Area. He made jokes, he brushed off questions about his new role as the league’s most villainous traitor, and somehow kept from looking uncomfortable on those bar chairs the Warriors use for these events.
“When I met these guys, I felt as comfortable as I’ve ever felt. It was organic, it was authentic, it was real, and it was feelings I couldn’t ignore,” said Durant.
Durant said he couldn’t believe the Warriors’ four best players — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala — came out to meet him. “It looked like they were holding hands,” he quipped. He also joked about Thompson texting him.
“I didn’t know he had a phone,” said Durant, as everyone laughed. “So he exceeded my expectations as a person.”
Durant said going into this process that it would be a basketball decision, and the main basketball question was how he would mesh with the reigning two-time MVP. Would one basketball ever be enough?
“I wanted to look Steph in his eyes and ask him how he felt about a guy like me joining this team and the rest of the guys and Klay,” he said.
And just from a basketball sense, playing with Curry, the guy with the strongest gravitational pull in the league who draws multiple defenders every time he has the ball (or even sometimes when he doesn’t), how much easier will Durant’s basketball life be? Especially considering Curry is a phenomenal passer whose only offensive weakness in 2015-16 was an assist-to-turnover rate of 2.01, his lowest since 2010-11? Expect that to climb this year.
“I’ve got a short amount of time left to play basketball,” Kevin Durant said. “I just want to enjoy every single day of it.”
Says it all.
— Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy) July 7, 2016
He was asked about Russell Westbrook.
“I talked to him. It’s tough. Obviously we were teammates for so long and I had a lot of great memories. I’m sure he wasn’t happy about the decision, but he respected it as my friend,” Durant said.
“And the relationship was great. You know, we had great years, something that you’ll never take away from us. But like I said, I wanted a new chapter in my life. I felt like it was time for it, and I made the decision. I couldn’t consider totally everybody’s feelings at this point because it would be hard to, so I just tried to focus on me but also realize the relationships that I had I still wanted those to be — I’m sure they won’t be the same, but I still wanted to go out there and leave with some class and some dignity, but hopefully I did, hopefully he understands, and I’m sure we’ll talk again.”
Durant said the relationship was great, but did most of his least favorite 48-minute segments around Westbrook take place on the hardwood? Because what might have gone unsaid today was how Westbrook’s game impacted Durant’s decision.
There are other things at play — Nike launched a KD9 marketing blitz as the press conference began (new Warriors colors), and the ease at which Durant might be able to win his first ring (it won’t be easy, of course). However, eight years with Westbrook had to be exhausting, especially when the pair took turns playing “me against the world” and lost so many fourth quarter leads last season, the most painful example obviously being Game 6 against the Warriors.
The easy decision would’ve been to stay in Oklahoma City, where he would’ve been celebrated as a loyal hero and maximized his NBA paychecks. But instead, he was drawn to Golden State, haters be damned.
“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, 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, and it’s the best decision for me, so I can’t really control how you feel. I’m sorry you feel that way, but I’m going to continue to live my life.”
It sounds like his life got a lot more fun once he chose to come to Golden State. He maintained that he made that decision at 7 am on Monday. But considering how long the Warriors have worked on this pursuit, Durant’s admiration for the organization and its best players, and the way he was able to cut ties with Westbrook and the team he led for nine years, one has to wonder if he’s been dreaming about today for months if not longer.