The fugue hanging over the Warriors 82 game regular season and 22 game postseason turned into a depression on June 30th at six pm eastern standard time. A season of broken dreams and a lost title was woefully insignificant to the devastation of Kevin Durant leaving town for Brooklyn, New York. The Warriors will spin the huge loss in a classy way, by thanking Durant for his dedication and participation; he is responsible for two Oakland titles. But the bottom line is the bottom line. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan are teaming up for a Big Three-lite, and even as Durant will more than likely miss 2019-20, his leaving Oakland is more a story about what the Warriors have lost than what the Nets have gained. The Warriors lost nearly everything because there is no replacing Kevin Durant.
Kevin Durant’s career predicted this moment in time. He lost in the 2016 Western Conference Finals and left his team, in free agency. He lost in the 2019 NBA Finals and left his team in free agency.
Losing weighs heavily on Durant, like a boulder about to crush him, and he feels the need to change cities. Or, maybe this was a Durant decision made last September. The Warriors had to convince him to stay and they just couldn’t.
Despite the initial shock, the Warriors will return to who they were before Durant. But with an ailing Klay Thompson out until-if things go well- February, it’s going to be an above average Warriors team in a loaded Western Conference.
This hardly seemed possible when Durant shocked the NBA and joined the Warriors in 2016 because he loved their chemistry and friendship when they pitched him. They won a skeptical Durant over by letting him know how much they needed him. And truth be told, Durant needed them. He had given his career everything and had never been able to get to the Finals. Those days behind him, Durant is still searching for the elusive chemistry from teammates, fans, media and the NBA world.
His free agency of 2016 was one in which he expected happiness and a title. He got the title. Happiness was harder to come by.
The Warriors brass was confused at what Durant wanted, how to keep him in town. Someone last week assessing Durant called him a wanderer. That he may just be one of those players who is always on the hunt for something that doesn’t exist. Brooklyn may be a 3 year thing and then it is somewhere else. Despite how we like to think of the NBA one team lifers, there are certain personalities who just want to be on the move.
Durant in Brooklyn will have to wait a year but if he is able to be, let’s say, 80% of Durant, then in 2020 he’ll be the star in Brooklyn that he was in Oakland and perhaps even more so. Kyrie Irving isn’t Steph Curry. Durant won’t have to fight for attention and respect or the idea that the team is anything but his.
Brooklyn doesn’t have much of a playoff resume unless you consider their flame out this year. Whatever Durant brings, the Nets will automatically crown him as the savior of New York City. All that he hungered for in the Bay but was denied will be his in Brooklyn. He’s not competing with an iconic player. Kyrie is a nice, albeit a little strange and moody point guard but he and Kevin Durant are not in the same greatness conversation.
Kevin Durant didn’t have what he needed in Oakland to anchor him to the Northern California earth. Sure, he had titles. He had a dominant team. He had chemistry when he wasn’t warring with Dray. But it wasn’t what Durant longed for and so he’s out. Something was obviously missing.
Stars are human people. Moving is a hassle, a pain. They only do it if they have to do it, if something isn’t quite right where they are. Something wasn’t right in Oakland and it doesn’t have to be anyone’s fault. Marriages end and it’s an amicable split. The timing shaped the narrative.
Three years ago, Durant came to the Warriors for a singular purpose. To win a title. To prove to the world he was the best player. But winning a title doesn’t necessarily prove the best of anything. Fans are emotional and fickle and can be bitter with long memories. Durant was never forgiven for joining a 73 win team that lost a title on a last shot. Though he tried hard, Durant was never part of the Warriors ecosystem. He was an add-on for greatness reasons and fans never let him forget he didn’t build anything in Oakland. And so here we are, the Warriors less than they were just yesterday.
Nostalgia won’t remember June kindly. Oracle ended with a thud and no home Finals wins. Durant was lost on many levels. Klay was a loss. Oracle is an empty shell, a repository of memories. That is it. I have a sense that five years from now it will be like all those Kobe-Shaq conversations. What if Durant stayed in the Bay? How many titles would the Warriors have won? What if Durant never tore his Achilles? What if everyone loved him once he won two rings? What if this was the end of the beginning and not the beginning of the end?