After three seasons with the Warriors, Kevin Durant last summer chose to sign with the Brooklyn Nets in free agency.
Over the last nine months or so, we have heard a bunch of theories and/or explanations as to why he decided to leave.
And on Tuesday morning, another story came to light.
This excerpt from Ethan Strauss' new book, "The Victory Machine," details an exchange between Durant and Strauss on Jan. 5, 2019:
I tried to make a few points, saying I didn’t begrudge him for having leverage with his contract, and insisted that I had good reason to write what I wrote. KD wasn’t impressed and accused me of trying to “rile up Steph’s fans.”
He expressed that this was a constant theme in the Bay. All of us local guys just wanted to kiss Steph’s a-- at his expense. This was KD’s consistent lament. He would frequently squabble in direct-message conversations with the Warriors fans of Twitter, frequently accusing them of favoring Steph at his expense.
In one such exchange that foreshadowed things to come, he was asked by the WarriorsWorld account whether two-time MVP Steph Curry or Kyrie Irving was the better player. “I gotta really sit down and analyze it,” Durant demurred.
There's a lot to unpack here, but let's start with looking at what Strauss wrote that got the two-time NBA Finals MVP upset.
On Jan. 3, the Warriors blew a 20-point second-half lead and ultimately lost to the Houston Rockets in overtime after James Harden drilled a ridiculously tough 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds remaining.
It was a weird second half for KD -- who went nearly seven minutes between shot attempts in the third quarter before becoming extremely aggressive down the stretch in the fourth quarter:
Over the final 3:48 of the 4th quarter, the Warriors took 8 shots:— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) January 4, 2019
-Kevin Durant = 7 shots (2-for-7)
-Steph Curry = 1 shot (0-for-1)
Strauss' postgame article -- which had the headline, "Can the Warriors win and keep Kevin Durant happy at the same time?" -- included the following:
It often appears that many of these plays are called to make Durant happier, much as nobody with the Warriors would admit that Durant must be made happy at the occasional cost of efficient play.
This isn’t about blame so much as it is about admitting reality as we can see it in the dog days of winter. The Warriors are not performing up to expectations and have much concern about placating their two-time Finals MVP, who happens to be a free agent (again) this summer.
This anxiety has downstream effects, likely influencing the degree to which Curry has the reins on offense. Curry is less of a squeaky wheel and is locked up long term, so he lives with the role reduction.
Right now, even after a statistically impressive offensive performance, the Warriors look less like a team devoted to making the right play than a team worried about angering the wrong player.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out why this bothered KD.
Furthermore -- as it relates to Durant's "consistent lament" -- Marc Spears of The Undefeated reported on June 30: "There was always the sense that the 10-time All-Star felt like a distant second fiddle to Stephen Curry."
Did KD expect to immediately become as revered as the guy who had spent his entire career with the Warriors, and who brought the franchise its first NBA title in 40 years? If so, that simply wasn't going to happen.
And lastly -- KD absolutely is entitled to believe that Kyrie is a better player than Steph (or perhaps just as good). That's his very close friend. But he had to have known how that take would sit with Warriors fans. Come on now.
Picking Kyrie over Steph is a surefire way to remain a distant second fiddle.