OAKLAND (AP) — Kevin Durant wanted to look MVP Stephen Curry in the eye, meet Klay Thompson face to face, and find out for himself whether they truly wanted him as a teammate.
The All-Star shooting tandem made it clear during a meeting last weekend that he would be a perfect fit with the Warriors.
“When I met these guys, I felt as comfortable as I’ve ever felt. It was organic, it was authentic, it was real,” Durant said. “It was feelings I couldn’t ignore.”
Splash! Golden State had a superstar cast.
The Warriors formally announced the signing of the seven-time All-Star and four-time scoring champion on Thursday and introduced him with fanfare during a news conference at the team’s downtown Oakland practice facility, where screens read, “WELCOME KD TO DUB NATION.”
So, what’s next? Seventy-four wins and a title? Golden State’s record-setting season with the best wins total ever of 73 ended without back-to-back championships.
“I haven’t made the decision yet, but he might start,” NBA Coach of the Year Steve Kerr joked, sitting next to a smiling Durant. “We lost in the Finals. We want to get better. We want to be better. You can’t do any better than adding KD to the current crew.”
Kerr won’t change his team’s style with the addition of KD, whom the coach will count on as a “brilliant passer” and someone who can cut and do it all.
“We’ve got as many or more playmakers on the floor as anybody,” said Kerr, already planning his training camp strategy on the court and how to prepare his players for even further scrutiny.
Durant might be able to match his coach’s wit, too.
When asked about Thompson being part of the pitch meeting, Durant quipped about receiving a text message from him: “I didn’t know he had a phone.”
Of Warriors assistant coach and former member of the Thunder staff Ron Adams, he said, “Ron Adams was the only reason I came.” They shared a big hug before Thursday’s festivities.
Durant announced his decision Monday in a story on “The Players’ Tribune,” then Thursday marked the first day free agents could sign their deals. He joins the NBA runner-up Warriors — who rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat Durant’s former Oklahoma City Thunder in a thrilling seven-game Western Conference Finals before losing the finals in seven games to Cleveland — on a two-year contract worth more than $54 million. There is a player option after the first year.
Not that Durant plans to skip town after one season. He’s here to win a championship.
“You never expect to get this much better,” general manager Bob Myers said. “I’ve admired Kevin as a basketball fan. ... I’m just excited to watch you play. I’m honored you’re here, I’m honored you chose us. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
Durant even spoke to Hall of Famer Jerry West along the way to help him weigh his choice.
“I know it’s Jerry West and I know he’s the ‘Logo,’ and you’re expecting a sexier conversation, but it was more so about the team and how I could fit in and how great the coaching staff was,” Durant said.
Still, Durant went to bed Sunday “torn” and still uncertain about his choice, and he told his father and representatives he needed a night to sleep on it. Then he woke up first thing Monday with more clarity.
He knew it would have been “easy to go back to something you’re comfortable with.”
This, he said, is the harder route — “It was time for me to try something new, try a new challenge. No better place to do it than here.”
Durant said former teammate Russell Westbrook took it hard.
“That call to Oklahoma City was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my life. Tears were shed. I trusted my gut,” Durant said.
“We live in this superhero comic book world where either you’re a villain or you’re a superhero if you’re in this position, and I know that, and I know I haven’t changed as a person. I don’t treat people any differently because I made the decision to play basketball in another city. I understand the fans in Oklahoma City and basketball fans around the world are, I guess, upset. But like I said, I made the decision based upon what I wanted to do and how I felt, and it’s the best decision for me, so I can’t really control how you feel.”
Ultimately for Durant, having fun for however many years he has left playing basketball is the plan.
“I just want to enjoy every single day of it.”