When Kevin Durant entered free agency in the summer of 2019, right after sustaining a torn Achilles tendon in the NBA Finals, it seemed almost inevitable that the future Hall of Famer would depart for a new opportunity.
With all of the well-chronicled tension building for over a year, many thought that Durant and the Warriors could no longer sustain a healthy, fruitful relationship.
Sure enough, Durant signed with the Brooklyn Nets at the beginning of free agency.
After three seasons of tremendous success, including two NBA Finals titles and one lost due to injuries, the Warriors core of Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green had come close to accomplishing everything they sought out to do. Many dreamed of those four continuing to dominate the league.
But even with Durant leaving for the Nets, the dream is not necessarily dead just yet, it might just be delayed.
According to ESPN's Nick Friedell, the theory of Durant eventually returning to the Warriors is going to start percolating more and more as time passes.
"I believe over time that [that theory] will gain more traction," Friedell said on the latest episode of the Dubs Talk podcast.
"Whether or not Kevin does return at some point, we will see. But this has always been a guy who, clearly by what he's done, is not afraid of trying some new stuff. And I think in his own mind, with his experience leaving OKC and because of his experience leaving the Warriors the way he did, he's going to do what he feels most comfortable with in that moment," Friedell elaborated.
The notion that Durant would return to the team in which there were countless reports of awkwardness, tension and anger, will probably come as a surprise to many. However, perhaps the separation and space has allowed both sides to look back and remember the happy times, and the greatness of their dynasty.
One thing is for certain after hearing many interviews of Durant, Curry, and others: the mutual respect and the relationships built during those three years have not evaporated.
"Had everything kind of soured in year three? Yeah. It had on a variety of levels. The relationships that he's mentioned several times in the last couple years, those are genuine. We saw him talking before that first Nets game in Brooklyn with Steph for a while, and those two genuinely knew, as they paired, they took their own games to a different level," Friedell said.
One major question mark is if a Durant and Draymond reunion could realistically happen. Everyone saw the blow-up at Staples Center against the Los Angeles Clippers, and Green has gone on record since questioning Durant's intentions during that 2018-19 season. Friedell recognizes that their relationship could be a reason to think a return seems questionable, even if they both now say they have let bygones be bygones.
"As for Draymond, it always felt like it was more of a familial relationship, like they were two brothers. And when times were great, they were really great, and when times were bad, wow, they were really bad," Friedell laughed as he recalled.
In the end though, Friedell is confident that if the time does come, and the option for Durant to reunite with his former teammates and organization does materialize, then do not count out one last hurrah.
"I think that all the emotions that brought them together, could potentially bring them together again. And we will find out as everyone's career plays out, but I know the Warriors would not be opposed to it, and I know having listened to Steph, and Klay, and Draymond through the years, if there is a way to make that happen to not only mend the fences, but make one more push to the top of the basketball world, maybe they do try to make it work."