As someone who was drafted by the Warriors, left the team -- and the NBA -- after two seasons to play in the ABA, only to return five years later, Rick Barry is exceedingly familiar with player movement.
So it’s not surprise that, 38 years after he retired, Barry is fully supportive of today’s players determining their career paths.
And in expressing his support for Kevin Durant’s decision two years ago to leave the Thunder and join the Warriors, Barry during a guest appearance on the NBC Sports Bay Area Warriors Insider Podcast offered a theory that shines a harsh light upon Russell Westbrook, Durant’s former teammate in Oklahoma City.
“Kevin Durant is going to become a better basketball player by becoming a Golden State Warrior,” Barry recalled telling people two summers ago. “He’s going to be involved in a system where he’s actually going to have the ball, he’s going to play with a bunch of unselfish players, he’ll get more easy shots than ever before and he’s going to have more fun playing basketball.”
Barry then asked a rhetorical question: Was there a time when Durant routinely posted “seven to eight” assists per game with the Thunder? In his first two seasons with the Warriors, Durant averaged 5.1 assists per game. Over nine seasons in Seattle and OKC, he averaged 3.7.
He spent most of that time sharing court with James Harden and Westbrook.
“They are fantastic players,” Barry said. “The skill and the things they do are unbelievable, and how hard they both play.
“Except I wouldn’t want to be standing around on the wing when my point guard has the ball for 22 seconds and then he can’t get a shot off and he throws it to me with one or two on the clock and I’ve got to throw up a prayer.
“How much fun is that? It’s no fun to watch. And it’s worse to have to be a part of it playing under those circumstances.”
It’s almost as if, to Barry’s way of thinking, Durant owed it to himself to see if there was another franchise with which he could got all the way to the top.
“He gave so much to that other organization,” Barry said, referring to the Sonics/Thunder. “He wanted to be a winner. It wasn’t about money. He was even willing to take less money. He wanted to have a chance to be a champion and he saw the opportunity to go to, without question, the team with the best chance.
“I was so happy for him that he wound up being the (Finals) MVP. And he does it two years in a row. You couldn’t have it scripted better if you were writing a movie.”
Barry played for four different franchises, two in the NBA and two in the ABA, but spent eight of his 14 seasons with the Warriors. He’s the only player in franchise history to average more than 35 points per game in one season, lead them to a championship in another and waltz into the Hall of Fame.
His allegiance is to the Warriors, and he’s thrilled that they’ve added All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins.
“The one chink in the armor . . . over the last four or five years is they’ve never had a great center,” Barry said. “Now all of a sudden, you’ve got a guy that not only can play center and block shots but also can score in the low post, can score facing up, can shoot the 3-point shot and can handle the ball.”