Warriors

Why Warriors will retire Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala's jersey numbers

Why Warriors will retire Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala's jersey numbers

When Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City in 2016, reaction from the only franchise he had known was petty and short-sighted. The Thunder deemed the best player in their brief history unworthy of a video tribune upon his return and, one year later, issued KD’s No. 35 to a rookie on a two-way contract.

That stung Durant. Moreover, players around the NBA took note of OKC’s flagrant disrespect toward someone who represented the franchise so well for nine seasons.

Six years earlier, in Cleveland, there was an even more display of sheer immaturity by Cavaliers chairman Dan Gilbert, who upon LeBron James’ decision to head to Miami wrote a screed to Cavaliers fans in which he described James as a narcissistic, cowardly deserter.

That, too, got around the league – as if it weren’t hard enough to sell NBA players on the merits of Cleveland and OKC.

The Warriors, it seems, are determined to avoid such self-defeating behavior.

Durant announced he was leaving the Warriors for the Nets on June 30. Roughly 24 hours later, Warriors CEO Joe Lacob issued a statement praising KD, concluding with this line: “As long as I am co-chairman of this team, no player will ever wear #35 for the Warriors again.”

This elicited more than a few eye rolls and looks of confusion, folks wondering why such a grand gesture for someone, no doubt great, who was a Warrior for only three seasons.

Lacob is ahead of such people. Maybe not light years ahead, but far enough to see the benefits that may be derived.

In the nine years since Lacob, Peter Guber and friends purchased the Warriors, the franchise has been committed to deep analysis, routinely soliciting a variety of opinions, occasionally resulting in conflict, before proceeding.

Every decision considers not only the next year or two but also the next 10 or 20. The goal is to become the world’s No. 1 franchise, transcending the NBA and sports.

The decision to trumpet the intention to retire Durant’s number was, to some degree, about honoring KD for his contributions. To a greater degree, it was about recruiting for the future.

The message to all future big-name free agents is this: If you come to our team and play an important role in its success, you will receive the highest honor we can give a player.

When the Warriors announced they were trading Andre Iguodala to Memphis on July 7, Lacob was even quicker with his recruiting pitch. The second paragraph of the press release is a statement in which the CEO thanks Iguodala “for all of his contributions and look forward to seeing his number in the rafters at Chase Center.”

Great players on the free-agent market are looking for more than money, minutes and a chance to win. They’ll get at least two of those. They also place value on how a franchise treats its employees. They’ve already canvassed prospective new teammates and wouldn’t be meeting if they didn’t like what they heard. But they also want to hear what those at the top of the business have to say.

There is not a player on earth who wouldn’t be moved by the idea of having, as I can imagine Guber saying, a visual monument to your greatness that will stand forever. Retired numbers have such status, as do statues.

Dangling easily visualized possibilities is perfectly legal as a recruiting tool, part of the routine for college coaches at powerhouse basketball and football programs. There’s a chance Zion Williamson was impressed when Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski pointed to retired jerseys -- Grant Hill and J.J. Redick to name two -- hanging in the rafters at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

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Durant and Iguodala earned their way to such distinction at Chase Center, even if neither plays a game in the building as a Warrior. It’s gracious of Lacob to state his intention to thank each man with more than a handshake.

But that’s not the only reason for making such firm statements, which can’t be reconsidered without severe backlash.

Lacob understands the value of image and that a positive one can be profitable. Shows of appreciation make their way around the league. No matter how he may feel about a player leaving, he wouldn’t convey pettiness or bile. He’s looking beyond the moment. Far beyond it.

Bob Myers explains what attracted Warriors to D'Angelo Russell trade

Bob Myers explains what attracted Warriors to D'Angelo Russell trade

The Warriors were about to lose Kevin Durant for nothing in free agency this summer. Then general manager Bob Myers pivoted and pulled out a sign-and-trade to acquire All-Star point guard D'Angelo Russell from the Brooklyn Nets for Durant.

The move caught many by surprise and led to speculation that the Warriors only acquired Russell with the intention of flipping him for other assets.

Myers recently rejected the idea that the Warriors took Russell just to trade him, and this week, he talked to The Athletic's Tim Kawakami about going into his free agency meeting with Durant, and his mindset once KD told him he was leaving Golden State.

"From that point on, the motivation going in and leaving, obviously leaving, I left with a certainty that [Durant] wasn't coming back," Myers said on The TK Show. "Going in, my job, our job as a front office, is to prepare for what if Kevin does come back and what if Kevin doesn't come back. It wasn't necessarily an immediate pivot to D'Angelo.

"It was, 'These are our options if Kevin doesn't come back. What can we do?' And for the people listening, it was simple. Either we do something like we did, which was more aggressive, whether it would have been that or something else, or another formulation of a sign-and-trade or using a huge trade exception, or we stand pat and signing a taxpayer mid-level. Those were the two pivot points. We obviously went the way we did."

Russell isn't the game-changing, Hall of Fame talent that Durant is, but he’s coming off his first NBA All-Star Game appearance, and set career highs in points per game, assists per game, field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage last season.

For Myers and the Warriors, there are things to like about what Russell brings to the team.

"The attraction for us was, what's very hard in our business and in any sport is, how do you get a talented, young player?" Myers said. "It's very difficult. How do you do it in my job or the front office? Usually it's through the draft or a trade. And most times you try to trade for a guy that's young and good, you have to give up something that's easier, either a guaranteed high pick or a lottery guaranteed pick, or a good player or a combination of players. It's hard to do.

"We saw an opportunity to do it. That's why we did it. And that's the direction we went in. The other direction would have been not to do that and stay the course and see where that went. But we chose the path, and we're pretty happy with it."

Despite losing Durant, the Warriors were able to replace him with an All-Star-caliber player who’s just 23 years old.

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Russell, Steph Curry and Draymond Green will have to hold down the fort in the Bay until Klay Thompson recovers from his torn ACL. Once the five-time All-Star returns, the Warriors will possess one of the most dynamic backcourts in the NBA.

That's something Myers and Co. definitely have to feel good about.

How Warriors' Bob Myers found positive in final Kevin Durant meeting

How Warriors' Bob Myers found positive in final Kevin Durant meeting

When Kevin Durant elected to leave the Warriors for the Brooklyn Nets when free agency opened June 30, many criticized the way in which the two-time NBA Finals MVP handled his move from coast to coast. 

Prior to his announcement to join the Nets, Durant had Warriors general manager Bob Myers fly out to New York so he could inform him of his decision in person, He did not, however, wait for Steph Curry's plane to land before word of his move to Brooklyn had leaked out. 

While some have been critical of Durant having a face-to-face with Myers just to tell him he would not be choosing to stay with the Warriors, Myers is glad the meeting/goodbye took place.

"Here's what I wanted," Myers told The Athletic's Tim Kawakami on "The TK Show" podcast. "Some people I had seen write that he made me fly all the way out there. I enjoy sitting and looking at you. We had a relationship. I like hearing news. I don't think we do enough of this in life. Look at me and tell me what you're thinking. Good, bad, whatever. Let's do it that way.

"I think our relationship had earned that. So for me, even hearing that he wasn't coming back in person, I'd rather have that all day long. And I appreciated that. Some people will say 'Well, you flew to New York to hear he wasn't coming back?' Absolutely. I'd fly to China to talk to him about what he wants to do. He earned that. He deserves that. I wanted that. It also gave me some closure, as far as to hear somebody, to see their body language and hear their conviction and hear all of it, was better for me than what, a text message or an Instagram announcement or a phone call. I don't want that. So I didn't know it until then."

Myers was grateful Durant wanted to talk with him face-to-face and was fully open about his decision to end his chapter with the Warriors.

"He told me to my face, which I appreciated," Myers continued. "I didn't know before then. I had a sense that it might go the other way. But part of me wanted to allow him ... this was a time, as it is with all the players, they don't owe us anything. This is their moment to be a free agent. He doesn't have to tell me. He didn't even have to say anything then. He could have said 'Tune in, I'll let you know' or he could have done whatever he wanted to do. He's earned that.

"So for me, I was hopeful that I'd get an answer and I did. And that's when he chose to give it, which was his prerogative. So when I got there, we talked about a ton of different things, but obviously, it got to that point and he said he wasn't coming back and I asked him for his thoughts and he told me what they were."

Durant's exit from the Bay closed one of the most historic runs in sports.

Since the 2014 NBA MVP arrived in Oakland, the Warriors nearly were unbeatable, winning two NBA championships before losing a third after Durant ruptured his Achilles and Klay Thompson tore his ACL. At full strength with Durant, Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green, the Warriors were the greatest collection of talent in NBA history. A runaway freight train that couldn't be stopped once it went into high gear. A unit that had no problem toying with opponents for long stretches due to sheer boredom before turning it on and blowing the other team away.

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Durant will spend the next year rehabbing his Achilles, hoping to make his return to the court in the 2020-21 season, while the Warriors enter the next season unsure of what the future holds. Can Curry, Green and new-addition D'Angelo Russell keep the Warriors alive until Thompson returns from his ACL rehab near the end of the season?

It's a new day in the NBA, but the Warriors and Durant always will have those three historic years.