When Kevin Durant left the Warriors in July 2019, the team’s CEO was flabbergasted. Joe Lacob couldn’t rationalize why Durant would leave the team with which he played a massive role in reaching three consecutive NBA Finals.
Deeply disappointed, Lacob issued a statement in which he praised Durant’s contributions on and off the court and vowed that as long as he is co-chairman no player will wear No. 35.
Still, Lacob on several occasions, including at a luncheon before the 2019-20 season, expressed puzzlement, saying he really didn’t understand and doubted he ever would.
The reason was simple then, and it’s simple three years later, with multiple reports Thursday that KD is requesting a trade from the Brooklyn Nets.
Durant is endlessly curious. He’s an explorer. A tinkerer. He’s constantly researching and studying, seeking ways to expand his game on the court and his life beyond it. He might never find all he seeks, but he is committed to the search.
“Everything I’ve done is about evolution and development,” Durant told reporters last September after a Nets training camp practice.
So, we should never be surprised when Durant seeks something different. He chose Brooklyn largely because it was an opportunity to play with two close friends, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan. He urged the Nets to sign Jordan, and then took less than the maximum to ease the financial burden. Though Jordan clearly was past his prime, he received a four-year contract worth $40 million.
That’s what Durant and Kyrie wanted in the summer of 2019. It’s not what Durant wants in the summer of 2022.
Jordan was a bust; he has since bounced about to three other teams. Kyrie has been a solo soap opera, a rambling, scrambling, zig-zagging tale of drama who has missed more games than he has played in Brooklyn -- but on Tuesday opted into the final year of his contract at $36.5 million.
Two days later -- and one year after signing a four-year extension worth $194 million -- Durant wants out. Atop his list of possible destinations is, according to Yahoo Sports, the Phoenix Suns. It’s a contending team, and region he has yet to fully survey.
Durant’s NBA legacy is secure, but affirmation never hurts.
During his time with the Warriors, Durant on several occasions made it clear that he’s a very willing traveler, pointing out that he left his hometown, Seat Pleasant, Md., in greater Washington D.C., to attend college halfway across the country in Texas. It didn’t matter that the University of North Carolina, 280 miles away, had a scholarship with his name on it.
After declaring for the 2007 NBA Draft, Durant was selected second overall by the Seattle SuperSonics. He went to the Pacific Northwest and loved his one season there. In an effort to show their appreciation for former COO Rick Welts and Durant, both of whom started their NBA journeys in Seattle, the Warriors arranged a preseason game there 2018.
Durant felt the love, and he radiated happiness.
When the Sonics left Seattle for Oklahoma City, it gave him an opportunity to probe another part of the country. He planted roots, investing in the community, serving as the patron saint of Positive Tomorrows, a school for the unhoused while also opening a restaurant, “KD’s,” specializing in southern dishes.
Coming to the Warriors in July 2016 was Durant’s first voluntary move since leaving for college a decade earlier. He embraced the Bay Area, driving through the streets of Oakland, riding BART with commuters and engaging with fans.
Durant and the Warriors also contended with considerable backlash from NBA fans, some out of envy. There was vehement reaction in OKC. He internalized all of it. The Warriors won two championships in his first two seasons, with him earning Finals MVP in both. He was never a more complete player than during his time in the Bay Area.
KD’s third and final season, when enchantment waned and restlessness surfaced, ended catastrophically. He sustained a ruptured Achilles tendon in Game 5 in Toronto, while Klay Thompson tore an ACL in Game 6 in Oakland.
That effectively closed the book on that era, even if Lacob and many others didn’t understand.
All of which should be clarified with this latest news. Kevin Durant’s journey is not for us to understand. It’s for him to experience.