For months on end, no one knew the real reason why Kevin Durant decided to leave the Golden State Warriors for the Brooklyn Nets. His reasons were as enigmatic as the man himself, and all everyone could do was to speculate.
Was it because of that infamous spat with Draymond Green back in November? No one really knew ... till today.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal (protected by a paywall), Durant had this to say about that incident:
“He scoffs at rumors that his public disagreement with Green, in the final moments of a game last November, was determinative. ... It was a ‘bullshit argument,’ he says, ‘that meant nothing. Absolutely nothing. We were great.’ And great, he insists, after.”
So, we can all scratch that out as the reason for Durant’s departure.
Well, how about the fact that winning two championships didn’t give him the fulfillment and satisfaction he expected?
“False, Durant says. ‘It’s rare in our lives when we envision and picture something and it comes together the perfect way you envision it. [Winning a title] was the only time in my life that happened, and that summer was the most exhilarating time. Every day I woke up I just felt so good about myself, so good about life. ... That was a defining moment in my life — not just my basketball life.’”
Okay, so not that either.
How about the notion that Durant felt like an outsider, someone who felt like he was never going to be embraced by the fans as warmly as they did with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, and Green?
“‘I came in there wanting to be part of a group, wanting to be part of a family, and definitely felt accepted,’ he says. ‘But I’ll never be one of those guys. I didn’t get drafted there. ... Steph Curry, obviously drafted there. Andre Iguodala, won the first Finals, first championship. Klay Thompson, drafted there. Draymond Green, drafted there. ... As time went on, I started to realize I’m just different from the rest of the guys. It’s not a bad thing. Just my circumstances and how I came up in the league. And on top of that, the media always looked at it like KD and the Warriors. So it’s like nobody could get a full acceptance of me there.’”
Ding, ding, ding! Well, at least that one was proven true, and we all heard it straight from the horse’s mouth.
But there was another reason ... and as expected from a basketball junkie such as Durant, it was, as former NBA commissioner David Stern would put it, for “basketball reasons.”
“‘The motion offense we run in Golden State, it only works to a certain point,’ he says. ‘We can totally rely on only our system for maybe the first two rounds. Then the next two rounds we’re going to have to mix in individual play. We’ve got to throw teams off, because they’re smarter in that round of playoffs. So now I had to dive into my bag, deep, to create stuff on my own, off the dribble, isos, pick-and-rolls, more so than let the offense create my points for me.’ He wanted to go to someplace where he’d be free to hone that sort of improvisational game throughout the regular season.”
So, there we go. Durant felt somewhat shackled by the Warriors’ motion offense, and felt that the strict adherence to such a system resulted in the team hitting a strategical ceiling of sorts.
By enumerating his reasons for moving on, his decision to go to Brooklyn has been made much more clear. For one, he gets to play with one of his closest friends in the league in Kyrie Irving, with an opportunity to play in a market that is still looking for that one franchise player who will capture the hearts of the fanbase, instead of trying to fit in within an already established culture.
Additionally, he will be entering a system that will allow him the freedom to do what he wants in terms of playing his brand of basketball, in lieu of trying to adhere to a system and being forced to adjust to it. With the Nets, it won’t be him who will do the adjusting — it’ll be those around him.
Will it lead to sustained success? More importantly, will it win Durant more championships? That remains to be seen.
Of course, this is all assuming that Durant returns to the same, otherworldly level — that nigh unreachable stratosphere — that he once occupied before his tragic Achilles injury occurred. And as basketball fans, first and foremost, we all hope that Durant does return to his old ways of soul-snatching basketball that helped the Warriors garner two unforgettable NBA titles.