Kevin Durant has turned another NBA free agency extravaganza on its heels. Last weekend, Durant elected to leave the Golden State Warriors and join Kyrie Irving with the Brooklyn Nets.
Durant left the Warriors unceremoniously. An Achilles injury in the NBA Finals coupled with reports surrounding the reasoning for his exit clouded his announcement. Those reports ranged from his supposed disdain for Steve Kerr, the Draymond Green spat from earlier in the season, and his insecurity on how the organization regarded Steph Curry.
As a way to save face, the Warriors’ front office brass has put together a brilliant proposition. To reward Durant for his time in the Bay Area, owner Joe Lacob announced the team’s intention to retire his No. 35 jersey number.
While the Warriors’ good deed sounds great in theory, the Warriors should re-think this. Evidently, Durant didn’t feel appreciated by a team that granted him everything he claimed he wished for. A great support system in a team, a coach who preached ball movement, and a culture that was strong.
If the reports are accurate that Durant wanted the validation Curry received and for Kerr to acknowledge his gifts, why should the Warriors bend over backward again to accommodate Durant?
What Durant did with the Warriors will forever be remembered. He helped the Warriors continue to tilt the league on its axis, forcing teams to re-think how they conceive their rosters. He, Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green terrorized teams, especially when they were locked in. And if the basketball gods didn’t bestow the injury bug on the Warriors this past postseason, it’s very likely that Durant and company would have accomplished a three-peat.
But it wasn’t enough for Durant. And it appears that the reasons he gave three years ago were just a smoke screen for his true intentions of the Warriors caving to his talents instead blending into the Warriors culture.
If Bob Meyers and Joe Lacob think about this, they should realize it’s best to put the Durant saga behind them. Their focus should be to continue to build the legacies of the players who have bought into the ethos of the Golden State culture. When Curry, Thompson, Green, and even Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala retire, their jersey’s should be in the rafters. While Durant was a Warrior by technicalities, he was never of the Warriors.
It isn’t Curry’s fault Durant wanted to forge a strong bond with him: those type of relationships come organically. It also isn’t Kerr’s fault that Durant led them astray for why he wanted to join the Warriors. Durant assumed the Warriors would focus the offense around him and not Curry. But as Durant found out what the world already knew, the Warriors were and will always be Curry’s team. And Durant couldn’t take the heat as his true intentions were exposed, so he left.
The Warriors front office shouldn’t feel bad about anything that transpired. They can get back to the ways that made them such a power in the first place: playing with joy and selflessness. With Durant on the court, they exhibited their signature ball movement. But they also had to accommodate for Durant on the floor. This meant more isolation plays and post-ups for their near-seven foot wing. When it worked, it worked, but it often disrupted the flow of the team’s offense.
This is what makes Durant’s reasoning for his departure so baffling. But also more reason why the Warriors shouldn’t attempt to appease Durant to ease the departure when they’ve already accommodated enough during his three seasons there.
Of course, Durant did great things for Golden State during his time there. But a jersey retirement should only be fit for Warriors players who completely bought in. It’s become apparent Durant never did.