- Editor's note: This story originally was published before the Warriors played the Nets on Opening Night on Dec. 22.
Ahead of Kevin Durant’s first preseason game with the Brooklyn Nets, there was a big number in the stories about his return to the court after a lengthy rehab for his right Achilles tendon tear.
Five hundred fifty-two days, and the last one was cemented in the mind of Warriors fans: Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors. KD played 11 points in 12 minutes and then...he fell, grabbing the back of his leg.
This season, KD’s first regular-season game will be against his old team? Are you kidding? How storybook is that?
I reached out to Nets PR about a week ago to see if I could speak to KD one-on-one. Landing this interview would require some lead time, and prior relationships helped. The Nets PR people remembered me from my time working in New York City. And KD and I had a friendly relationship when he was in the Bay. He said "yes."
He’s a media-savvy guy. KD could predict all of my questions, especially the main theme -- what will it be like facing your old teammates?
I didn’t want to set him up to say a version of, “It’s just another game.”
That’s essentially what he told a group of Nets reporters, anyway.
“I feel like each game is important to me," Durant told local media members on Monday. "And it's no more important to me because I am playing against my old teammates. I just feel like the game of basketball is going to have me on that level anyway and it's going to be good to see some of my old teammates."
While he’s telling the truth, there’s more emotion to tap into. I wanted to approach the question in a different way. I recalled that Warriors’ championship teams said deep bonds form when you go through long seasons together.
When I asked KD to describe where relationships stand now, he gave a long, thoughtful answer that name-dropped old teammates and trainers before he summed it up like this: “I’m very grateful for my time in the Bay Area. I’ll always be a Warrior in my heart.”
With any player, I try to detect if their words (safe? predictable?) match the emotions on their face (holding back?). KD’s words were genuine. At the end of our interview, he said, “I definitely miss my guys. I can’t lie.”
The love truly was there.
Throughout the interview, it was nice to see KD at ease and happy. He looks refreshed, and grateful for another season in the NBA.
The most recent picture on his Instagram shows KD in his Nets uniform and the caption reads, “14th season.” As one of the league’s brightest stars gets ready to shine again, thinking about his chapters with the Warriors still lights him up.