Gone are the days when Steve Kerr could use the Warriors to reduce teams around the NBA to envious piles of rubble. “Super Villains” T-shirts, manufactured when Kevin Durant joined the team three years ago, officially have devolved to nostalgia.
Kerr already has made his mental pivot and is able to savor the memories.
“Kevin took us to a different level,” Kerr said Tuesday on The Warriors Insider Podcast. “We were a championship team before he got here. We became a historic team after his arrival.”
The Warriors had gone to back-to-back NBA Finals, winning the first and losing the second, in the two seasons before KD signed as a free agent after nine seasons in Seattle/Oklahoma City.
In his three seasons as a Warrior, Durant helped the team to three consecutive trips to The Finals, with two championships, while collecting two Finals MVP awards. Kerr is skeptical whether that would have happened without Durant, who replaced Harrison Barnes, a solid player but clearly lacking the prodigious gifts of an all-time great.
“We lost Game 7 in 2016,” Kerr said, recalling the painful conclusion to the record-setting 73-9 season. “Had we gone forward with that team, without Kevin, I know we would have been in the mix. But we wouldn’t have been as dominant, obviously, had Kevin not arrived.”
Never were Durant and the Warriors more in sync than in the 2017 postseason, when they swept the first three rounds and took a 3-0 lead over Cleveland in The Finals before winning in five games. Their 16-1 record is the best in NBA history, and 13 of the 16 wins were by double digits.
"That team, to me, was as good as any team that’s ever played, at least since I’ve been watching the NBA," Kerr said. "Playing in the NBA, following it, covering it as a broadcaster, that was as talented a group at both ends of the floor as I’ve ever seen. Just total dominance."
Durant during his Warriors career (208 regular-season games) averaged 25.8 points per game, shooting 52.4 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from beyond the arc. His 8.3 rebounds per game in 2016-17 set a career-high, as did his 1.8 blocks the next season and his 5.9 assists in his third and final season.
KD tilted the floor. And more.
“He gave us everything that we expected and more,” Kerr said. “His play was incredible. The things he did for people in the Bay Area, in the community, what he did for kids, what he did on the floor ... he did everything. And we were lucky to have him.
“In terms of his departure, everybody’s different. Everybody’s got a different story, a different career path. And he obviously felt like it was time for a change. So, he moved on. We wish him the best.”