Kevin Durant's time with Warriors gives Steve Kerr fond memories forever

Kevin Durant's time with Warriors gives Steve Kerr fond memories forever

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.

[RELATED: Kerr reveals why he was devastated by Dubs trading Iguodala]

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.”

Why Warriors' Steph Curry is 'biggest variable' in 2019-20 NBA season

Why Warriors' Steph Curry is 'biggest variable' in 2019-20 NBA season

The Warriors have been the NBA's model of consistency for half a decade, but things are going to look much different this season.

With Klay Thompson rehabbing from a torn ACL and Kevin Durant doing the same from a ruptured Achilles in a new uniform, Golden State enters coach Steve Kerr's sixth season in an uncertain position. The Warriors still have two-time MVP Stephen Curry, however, and perhaps no player in the league will have a bigger effect on their team's fortunes than Curry. 

"I think the biggest variable in the NBA right now is what that No. 30 does this season," NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh said on NBC Sports' NBA Season Tip-Off Show on Tuesday. "How many games does he play? How much load management is he going to see in the regular season this year and how many games is he going to take off? Because in the preseason, he was on fire." 

As Haberstroh noted, Curry averaged 39.5 points per 36 minutes during the preseason. Haberstroh predicted Curry would win the scoring title in his season preview column, and Curry's preseason total easily would have led NBA players who played at least 1,000 regular-season minutes last season. This preseason provides a small sample size, but Curry was similarly explosive away from Durant in the last three seasons and before he joined the Warriors in the first place. 

"[If Curry's] going to win the scoring title and the Warriors win 50 games, I think he's going to be in the MVP conversation," Haberstroh said. 

[RELATED: How Kawhi, Clippers will give Dubs some Finals déjà vu]

Fifty wins will be a tall task, given how loaded the Western Conference is and how much learning-on-the-fly the Warriors will have to do following an offseason of change. NBC Sports Bay Area Warriors Insider Monte Poole noted that Curry will have to get to know a new backcourt partner in D'Angelo Russell, but he will also have to contend with opposing defenses' undivided focus. 

"I think, when you look at Steph, he's going to get a lot of attention this year," Poole said. "Teams are going to basically say, 'You know what, don't let Steph beat us. Anybody else? Fine. But don't let Steph beat us.'"

Curry undoubtedly is used to the spotlight, but how he responds to a brighter one during his 11th NBA season will determine the Warriors' fortunes in 2019-20. 

Why Clippers' win vs. Lakers should give Warriors NBA Finals déjà vu

Why Clippers' win vs. Lakers should give Warriors NBA Finals déjà vu

The Clippers' acquisitions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George gave LA's other franchise what arguably is the NBA's most formidable duo.

It turns out the Clippers are quite alright with just one of them in the lineup.

Without George, who is sidelined for about a month after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, the Clippers beat the crosstown rival Lakers 112-102 on the first night of the season Wednesday. The Clippers' win followed a playbook the Warriors know all too well after their NBA Finals loss in June, and it's one they'll surely see again Thursday night at Chase Center in Golden State's season opener.

Leonard led the Clippers with 30 points Tuesday night, and he was the only Clips starter to score in double figures. The reigning NBA Finals MVP was aided by four double-digit scorers off the Clippers' bench, though, as Lou Williams (21 points), Maurice Harkless (17), JaMychal Green (12) and Maurice Harkless (10) all shot at least 50 percent from the field.

Sound familiar? It should, as the Clippers looked a lot like the Toronto Raptors did in a six-game NBA Finals win over the Warriors.

Leonard led the way in June, but he got a lot of help from his former teammates. Five other Raptors scored at least 10 points per game in The Finals, including bench players Fred VanVleet (14.0 points per game) and Serge Ibaka (11.3). Toronto's depth out-shined Golden State's, as only the Warriors' original big three of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green scored in double figures during The Finals.

[RELATED: Kerr clarifies his comments on Klay's ACL recovery timeline]

The Warriors were without Kevin Durant for all but 12 minutes of The Finals, and lacked Thompson down the stretch in Game 6. Golden State will miss both of them Thursday, given Durant's offseason departure for the Brooklyn Nets and Thompson's continued recovery from a torn ACL. D'Angelo Russell was brought in to fill the void, but the Warriors' season opener could look a lot like the end of their last one four months ago. 

Down a star, the Warriors will have to stop Leonard and a very deep supporting cast. He will wear red, white and blue in San Francisco rather than red and black in Oakland, but in the absence of George, Leonard's early Clippers tenure will give the Warriors plenty of déjà vu.