OAKLAND – Kevin Durant introduced himself to the Bay Area Thursday with good humor and not the slightest rumor of second-guessing his decision to leave Oklahoma City and join the Warriors.
He came for the area. He came for the coaching staff. He came, perhaps most of all, for his new teammates.
While meeting with the Warriors last Friday in the Hamptons, a tony section of Long Island, N.Y., Durant looked into the eyes of Steph Curry, heard the conviction in the voices of Draymond Green and Andre Igoudala. Durant also was stunned to see Klay Thompson, who can go off grid with the best of them, show up and offer testimony.
“I didn’t know he had a phone,” Durant joked at his introductory news conference at the Warriors team facility.
Though he was impressed, to say the least, it was not until three days later, after meeting with five other teams, did Durant wake up early Monday morning, July 4th, and roll out of bed with a clear direction.
He was coming to the West Coast.
“I was shocked that those four guys came to meet me a couple of days ago,” Durant said. “The team won 73 games and a championship before. I didn't think they would be interested in a player like me because they've had so much success.
“But to see them together, they all walked in and it looked like they were holding hands. It was just a family. I could tell they enjoyed being around each other . . . that was something I couldn't ignore. It was just a great vibe throughout the whole day. I'm glad I'm here, man. Like I said, I'm excited, and I'm just ready to play ball.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr joked that Durant, a four-time scoring champion and six-time All-NBA selection, “might start.” Kerr took note, though, of perhaps the most influential moments of the entire recruitment.
“At one point, the players left the room and went outside – Andre and Klay, Steph, Draymond and then Kevin,” Kerr said. “Just the five of them went outside and talked for probably 20 minutes or so.”
Meanwhile, CEO Joe Lacob, general manager Bob Myers and Kerr stayed inside with members of Durant’s party. They believed the player-to-player conversation would answer questions about the coaching, the management and the ownership.
It worked. And six days later Myers is sharing a dais with Durant, saying he’s “thrilled” and “excited” about the newest Warrior.
“I still can't believe I'm sitting next to him to be honest,” Myers said. “Our job, my job, Joe and I talk all year long, but basically we just try to . . . get better every time we – every day we wake up. And you never expect to get this much better.
“But yeah, I mean, Kevin Durant, we love people that love to play basketball. We love people that are high-character people, and you can't find a better embodiment of that than the guy sitting next to me.
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“We all can dream,” Myers added. “Most of the time the dreams don't come true.”
This dream came true for the Warriors, who now have four legitimate All-Stars and the potential to be the most explosive offensive team in NBA history. Curry, Thompson and Durant surely project to be the sweetest-shooting trio ever to wear the same jersey.
Green and Iguodala, both of whom enjoy passing more than scoring, will have a wealth of options.
“That was the idea behind bringing him here,” Kerr said of Durant. “We knew what kind of team we already had. We knew we could get better, and we lost in The Finals. We want to get better. Bob said it, we want to get better every year, but we lost in The Finals this year. We want to do better.
“You can't do much better – you can't do any better than adding KD to the current crew, and our staff is excited. We're already talking about different ways we can put the pieces together, and it's going to be a lot of fun once we get rolling.”
This is the culmination of a plan that goes back at least two years, with the Warriors brain trust realizing Durant would be a free agent this month, just as the salary cap took a giant leap, from $70 million to $94.14 million in 2016-17.
They kept this in mind while signing Thompson and Green to extensions, and when signing Andrew Bogut to an extension that would expire in 2017, opening wide a trade window.
The Warriors entered this season with eight players scheduled for free agency this month, four restricted and four unrestricted, and after losing the NBA Finals renounced them all. They cleared the decks in hopes of luring Durant.
And then, last weekend, they closed the deal.
“I just felt like this group of guys, when they came in to see me, everything was real,” Durant said “You know, you hear on the outside looking in, you hear nothing but great things about this organization, and you never know how it is until you get face-to-face with these guys, but to see Steph, Klay, Andre, Draymond walk in the house I was at, I could tell they were about business.
“ . . . They're different guys, but they all come together and make it work. Like I said, it was natural. It was authentic, and it was real. I just felt like I needed to be a part of it.”