Why Kevin Durant left Warriors for Nets and how he recovered from injury to become NBA MVP candidate

We’re greater than two years faraway from the sign-and-trade deal that despatched Kevin Durant to the Nets, nevertheless it’s nonetheless simple to float again into hypothetical land and ask the massive query: What if Durant had determined that he wished to stick with the Warriors?

From 2016-19, Golden State skilled basketball nirvana. Durant seamlessly slid into Steve Kerr’s rotation, and the Warriors proceeded to seize back-to-back championships, arising simply in need of a three-peat after Durant (Achilles) and Klay Thompson (ACL) each suffered season-ending accidents within the 2019 NBA Finals.

Whereas that marketing campaign led to disappointment, Durant nonetheless seemingly had the right scenario sitting in entrance of him as he entered free company. The Warriors would give him any kind of contract he wished, and he would have time to undergo the rehabilitation course of in a well-recognized setting. Stephen Curry and Draymond Inexperienced might maintain down the fort, then resume their domination of the NBA when Durant and Thompson returned.

However the scenario wasn’t good — removed from it, truly.

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Why did Kevin Durant depart the Warriors for the Nets?

In Durant’s thoughts, selecting Brooklyn as the subsequent cease in his profession was simple. He mentioned he had a quick dialog with shut pals Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan round 4:15 a.m. when free company opened, and all three gamers have been instantly on board with heading to the Nets.

“I felt prefer it was time for a change. I wished to play for a brand new staff,” Durant mentioned on the staff’s 2019 media day. “Merely put, I simply did it. I did not actually take into consideration what I used to be abandoning or what we completed. I put that up on the shelf already. When it was time to decide on my future, I simply thought solely about me.”

Along with being prepared for a brand new alternative in Brooklyn, Durant informed The Wall Road Journal’s J.R. Moehringer that, regardless of feeling accepted by the Warriors, he knew he would by no means actually be “a type of guys.”

“Steph Curry, clearly drafted there. Andre Iguodala, received the primary Finals, first championship. Klay Thompson, drafted there. Draymond Inexperienced, drafted there,” Durant mentioned. “And the remainder of the fellows type of rehabilitated their careers there. So me? S—, the way you going to rehabilitate me? What you going to show me? How are you going to alter something in my basketball life? I bought an MVP already. I bought scoring titles.

“As time went on, I began to appreciate I am simply totally different from the remainder of the fellows. It isn’t a nasty factor. Simply my circumstances and the way I got here up within the league. And on high of that, the media at all times checked out it like KD and the Warriors. So it is like no one might [give] a full acceptance of me there.”

How Warriors expertise impacted Kevin Durant’s choice

As Durant overtly admitted, there have been at all times points relating to how he was seen as separate from the remainder of the staff as a result of he was added to the roster after a record-setting 73-win common season.

When he received his first championship in 2017, Durant believed a title would change his standing within the league and switch the haters into admirers. That did not occur.

“He did not have an ideal summer season,” former Warriors advisor and present Nets coach Steve Nash informed ESPN’s Zach Lowe. “He was looking for what all of it meant. He thought a championship would change every part, and discovered it does not. He was not fulfilled. He did not work out as a lot as he usually does.”

In a February 2019 story for The Athletic, Ethan Strauss reported that Durant believed defeating LeBron James’ Cavaliers would power followers and analysts to succeed in a consensus and admit that he was the very best participant alive, even when they initially known as him out for his “weak transfer” to the Warriors. That did not occur.

From Strauss:

As an alternative, there was no grand reordering of rankings, and solely a lot credit score available for a dominant playoff run. KD, who was “uninterested in being second” method again in 2013, was nonetheless caught there reputationally, even in final victory. He was nonetheless behind LeBron within the eyes of pundits, basketball Twitter, and maybe most significantly, at Nike, who’s employed Durant longer than any staff. Then, the subsequent Finals unfolded in a lot the identical method, with a lot the identical end result, all whereas Warriors followers cheered loudest for the smaller MVP’s baskets.

Strauss expanded upon Curry’s recognition and the stress it created in his e-book, “The Victory Machine: The Making and Unmaking of the Warriors Dynasty”:

[Durant] accused me of “making an attempt to rile up Steph’s followers.” He expressed that this was a relentless theme within the Bay. All of us native guys simply wished to kiss Steph’s ass at his expense. This was KD’s fixed lament. He would ceaselessly squabble in direct-message conversations with the Warriors followers on Twitter, ceaselessly accusing them of favoring Steph at his expense. In a single such change that foreshadowed issues to return, he was requested by the WarriorsWorld account whether or not two-time MVP Steph Curry or Kyrie Irving was the higher participant. “I gotta actually sit down and analyze it,” Durant demurred.

After which there was the argument with Inexperienced. Throughout a November 2018 sport between the Clippers and Warriors, Durant and Inexperienced exchanged phrases after Inexperienced pushed the ball up the ground on the ultimate possession of regulation as a substitute of passing to Durant.

Inexperienced reportedly known as Durant a “bitch” and was suspended for “conduct detrimental to the staff.”

When ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith requested Durant about that incident in October 2019, Durant mentioned it did play a task in him leaving the Warriors.

“I imply, your teammate speak to you that method, you concentrate on it a bit,” Durant mentioned. “However , like I mentioned, we talked about it. However positively. For certain. I am not going to lie about it.”

“I simply felt like I wanted a swap. I felt like numerous stuff in Golden State had reared its head,” Durant continued. “I felt like that was simply going to be the top it doesn’t matter what, particularly for that group. Shaun Livingston was retiring. Andre Iguodala was getting older. Our contracts have been going to stifle the staff and put us in a gap to get different gamers.

“It was time for all of us to type of separate.”

Kevin Durant recovers from damage, rediscovers his type with Nets

Brooklyn agreed to a four-year, $164 million cope with Durant realizing that he would not be accessible for the 2019-20 season. Throughout an look on ESPN’s “First Take” in October 2019, Durant made it clear that he anticipated to sit down out all the season, even when Brooklyn reached the playoffs. He reiterated that stance after play was quickly suspended amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is simply finest for me to attend,” Durant informed The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears in June 2020. “I do not suppose I am able to play that kind of depth proper now within the subsequent month. It offers me extra time to prepare for subsequent season and the remainder of my profession. … I used to be placing stress on myself in earlier accidents, eager to hurry up and are available again. I noticed my teammates having enjoyable and wished to be on the market.

“This time, I felt like I used to be extra affected person all through the method mentally and never dashing myself mentally, not get too excited when my staff performs effectively or I’ve a very good [rehab] day. I am taking issues second by second, and I am making an attempt to look out for what’s finest long run.”

Durant formally made his Nets debut on Dec. 22, 2020, scoring 22 factors in a 125-99 victory over, in fact, the Warriors. He struggled with damage issues all through the 2020-21 marketing campaign, most notably lacking almost two months with a hamstring pressure. He averaged 26.9 factors, 7.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 35 video games.

However he took his sport to a different degree within the playoffs. With Kyrie Irving sitting out and James Harden hobbling round on one leg, Durant virtually beat the Bucks by himself within the Jap Convention semifinals. He posted 49 factors, 17 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals and two blocks in a Sport 5 win. Oh, and he did not sit for a single second. 

He completed with 48 factors, 9 rebounds and 6 assists within the Sport 7 loss, however he did not play all 48 minutes of that contest — as a result of he was on the ground for all 48 minutes, plus the five-minute additional time interval.

Quite than taking it simple after elimination, Durant dedicated to Staff USA’s basketball program. He capped off an unimaginable Olympic stretch with 29 factors on 9-of-18 capturing in opposition to France within the gold-medal sport, ending the event as USA Basketball’s all-time chief in factors, free throws and 3-pointers.

Durant has carried that groove into the 2021-22 season, averaging a league-leading 29.3 factors per sport whereas capturing a scorching 52.0 p.c from the sector. He’s arguably the very best participant on the planet, and he was firmly within the MVP dialog till he suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee.

The Warriors, in the meantime, are as soon as once more a title contender. Curry and Inexperienced have been terrific collectively when each gamers are totally wholesome, and Thompson has returned to the courtroom after an extended journey to restoration.

Maybe the Durant-Warriors breakup was inevitable, merely part of an NBA by which celebrity motion has turn out to be frequent. Nonetheless, it is arduous to not marvel what might have been.


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