So, it did happen. Kevin Durant went to the Golden State Warriors. The rich, got richer. A top three player went to a 73 win team, one that has been to the two previous NBA finals and won one. Another super team is born.
Make no mistake. This is nothing like what LeBron did back in 2010 when he left Cleveland to go to Miami. First off, LeBron had no help. He had an organization with no apparent interest in putting a good team around him to such extent that the 2nd best player was Mo Williams. He never had a Russell Westbrook or Serge Ibaka, not even a Steven Adams or Enes Kanter. Durant always had an organization committed to winning and willing to do almost everything (except paying the luxury tax apparently: see Harden trade) to get a championship. Then, we have the matter of the team he went to. LeBron went to a Miami Heat that was not remotely close to contending for a championship and that was built on the fly to accommodate a Big 3. The Heat were not exactly LeBron’s problem in terms of path to a championship like the Warriors were to Durant. The comparison would be LeBron joining the Boston Celtics with their Big 3 (Allen, Pierce and Garnett) about 4/5 years younger. And on top of it all, Durant is joining the team that just beat him in the conference finals after being up 3-1 with a decent amount of the blame for that loss falls on his shoulders.
My problem with the situation is not the fact that he left. He has been with Oklahoma City for many years and if it were not for injuries they probably would have won a title or two. He was a free agent and he has every right to decide to change and look for a new challenge. But what new challenge is it going to the Golden State Warriors? He said something in the lines of I took the harder road, going to a new city. C’mon Kevin, who are you trying to convince? Yourself? Like I said, it is his decision and only his to make and we have to respect it. But that does not mean we have to agree with it, nor put him on a pedestal for his actions. Paul Pierce said it best in a tweet following his announcement: “If you cannot beat’um, join um”
The backlash has already started, but not to the extent you might expect. It is not even remotely close to what LeBron experienced, which for me makes absolutely no sense (in terms of reaction across the league, not from previous team) because both left to form a super-team and in Durant’s case, to a proven winner. It is yet again another circumstance where we can see a double standard regarding LeBron James and other athletes. Why was LeBron worse? Because he decided to do a TV special and donate the money made off it to a boys and girls club? Of course part of this is on LeBron. He started (alongside Chris Bosh and Wade, despite the first real Big 3 being in Boston) this new trend of teaming up superstars. The fact that he won two rings and after a couple of years everyone forgot what he made and said contributed to Durant not being afraid of taking an initiative and leaving to team up with other superstars.
On to the team itself, this is going to be a very interesting team to watch. They will have to decide the pecking order and, despite all talks of the ball moving around and everyone being best friends and not caring for individual stats, things will not be that easy. Say what you want, but watching Curry and Thompson make impossible shots is very fun in the regular season but when finals come around and they are struggling and keep trying to make those fancy things tension was visible in the Warriors. Now, while they will not have a player like Harrison Barnes missing wide open 3’s, they will have to make sure Durant gets his touches. 11 or 12 points per game are not nearly enough for a player of Durant’s stature. It will be very interesting to see how Steve Kerr manages that situation. But let’s be honest: They are going to be great. They have the most amount of talent ever assembled in a team and anything short of pure dominance both in the regular season and in the playoffs will be an absolute failure. The amount of pressure will be unlike anything previously seen. Can they take it? The NBA finals seemed to throw some questions marks with regards to the clutchness of this team. They will have to shred that label or else they risk losing against (possibly) the Cavs like Miami did against Dallas. There is as well the issue of not being the beloved ones now. They are the “evil empire”, those who will get every team’s best shot. What an exciting season this is going to be.
By: Step-Back J