OAKLAND – In his first open media availability since free agency opened on June 30, Warriors general manager Bob Myers spent less time during a 21-minute session Monday talking about those coming to the franchise than the one who left.
Myers clearly was more comfortable extoling the virtues of a proven commodity, such as Kevin Durant, than speculating on what will come from a roster remade by necessity when he left.
Durant’s departure is bittersweet not only to Myers but also every team employee because it closes the most revered chapter in Warriors history. Myers conveyed as much to Durant when they met in New York before KD announced his decision to join the Brooklyn Nets.
“To be honest, I was kind of sad. I was kind of sad,” Myers said. “I was. Because I like him. I like basketball. And, so, just to watch him play was a treat for me. Just to watch him practice, to watch him work out. I’ll miss that. Just as a basketball fan. Guys like him don’t come along too often. His skill set, his ability, is so unique. I got to see him up close, for three years of my life. I’ll always remember that.
“I have a peace about it, personally. I hope our fans can too. In the annals of Bay Area sports, he’s one of the best athletes we’ve ever seen come through our city, certainly this organization.”
This warm current of appreciation runs through the franchise, whether it’s CEO Joe Lacob last week vowing to retire Durant’s No. 35 or team leader Stephen Curry expressing it during a golf tournament in Lake Tahoe over the weekend.
"The three years we had were special,” Curry told reporters at Tahoe. “We had three straight Finals appearances and won two of them. We accomplished a lot as a group.
“Everybody talks about the amount of talent that we had on our team. But that doesn't guarantee that you can figure it out on the court, that you can put all the pieces together to be successful. I'm really proud of what we accomplished.”
With Durant on the roster, the Warriors went to three consecutive NBA Finals, winning two, with KD being named the MVP in both of those occasions. The Warriors were 182-64 (.740 winning percentage) in the regular season, rising to 46-14 (.766) in the postseason. They were 10-5 in The Finals -- 1-4 without Durant.
The Warriors were, depending on one’s perspective, either the pride or the scourge of the NBA. With Durant joining Draymond Green -- his initial recruiter -- Klay Thompson and Curry, Warriors coach Steve Kerr could lean on four All-Stars. With their profile reaching heights no NBA franchise has known in the age of rampant social media, they conceivably were the most hated and most loved team in sports. National news outlets, for the first time, moved reporters to the Bay Area for the specific purpose of covering the Warriors.
That era ended earlier this month, when Durant left, followed by veteran mainstay and 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, it brought down the curtain on one of the most impressive runs the NBA has known -- and easily the greatest in franchise history.
“It’s very difficult,” Myers said. “Those are people I like. Those are people I still like. Those memories, those relationships don’t change just because they’re going to go work for a different company or a different team. What we shared -- whether it’s myself, or their teammates, or anybody in the organization -- that doesn’t go away.
“That hurts. Those things hurt. If they don’t hurt, then I guess you never had a relationship with those guys in the first place.”
Iguodala’s arrival in 2014 signaled a change in fortunes for the Warriors. They were, for the first time in franchise history, a destination for a high-quality player with the right to choose. KD’s arrival two years later was a tonic for fans despondent after losing the 2016 Finals. July 4, 2016 was, and will forever be, the day the Warriors fans thought they’d never see.
A highly coveted superstar, with the right to choose his employer, chose their favorite team.
“I just appreciate it," said Myers, who grew up in the East Bay. “Growing up here, the fact that Kevin Durant wore a Warriors uniform for three years, to me that’s pretty cool, whether I’m here in the position I’m in or just a Warriors fan.”