OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Kevin Durant decided his best chance for “growth” means leaving his beloved Oklahoma City behind for a big move out West to join the Golden State Warriors to play alongside Splash Brothers Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
In the most anticipated move of the NBA offseason, Durant announced his decision Monday on The Players’ Tribune. His deal can become official Thursday, when free agents can sign their new contracts.
Independence Day, indeed.
“The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a player – as that has always steered me in the right direction,” Durant said in the article. “But I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth. With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors.”
And the 2015 champion Warriors, who squandered a 3-1 NBA Finals lead to lose to LeBron James and the Cavaliers last month, know how tough Durant is in any lineup: They rallied from down 3-1 to beat Durant and the Thunder in a seven-game Western Conference Finals.
Golden State applied a full-court press to land Durant. On Friday in the Hamptons, the Warriors sent owner Joe Lacob, general manager Bob Myers, coach of the year Steve Kerr, Curry and Thompson to meet with the 6-foot-9 superstar.
The 2014 MVP and four-time scoring champion led the Thunder to the NBA Finals in 2012, and to the Western Conference finals in four of the past six years – and he’s only 27. He recovered from a broken bone in his right foot that cost him much of last season to post one of the best years of his career.
Durant met with the Thunder, Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat once teams could begin negotiating with free agents.
With the addition of Durant, the Warriors become the league’s latest team to add a superstar chasing a championship to a lineup of All-Stars. LeBron James made the move from Cleveland to Miami in 2010, joining a lineup that featured Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. They reach four NBA Finals as a group and won two championships.
“I’m from Washington, D.C. originally, but Oklahoma City truly raised me. It taught me so much about family as well as what it means to be a man,” Durant said. “There are no words to express what the organization and the community mean to me, and what they will represent in my life and in my heart forever. The memories and friendships are something that go far beyond the game. Those invaluable relationships are what made this deliberation so challenging.
“It really pains me to know that I will disappoint so many people with this choice, but I believe I am doing what I feel is the right thing at this point in my life and my playing career.”
He should be a good fit in Golden State’s varying lineups and gives All-Star Draymond Green another physical body and rebounding presence.
The Warriors topped the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ mark and set the NBA regular-season wins record with 73 victories and led the league in scoring.
The Warriors have been one of the league’s deepest teams, and look to be that way again.
Durant has been a difficult opponent for the Warriors — he averaged 30 points per game against them in this year’s Western Conference finals and dropped a career-high 54 points on them in 2014.
Adding Durant will give the Warriors another chance to chase a title after the bitter feeling that was this season – a record-setting year that ended without the team’s biggest goal being reached. Durant has had to carry much of the scoring load for the Thunder over the years, but having Curry, Green and Thompson on the floor with him should open up space he hasn’t had during his tenure in Oklahoma City.
But the Warriors will have to move players to make room for Durant.
They will have to make a decision on the future of restricted free agent Harrison Barnes. Center Andrew Bogut, meanwhile, removed all references to the Warriors from his Twitter page and is expected to be traded to clear room for Durant. His Twitter page now features a photo of the 7-footer in an Australia jersey.
Losing Durant to a top rival will sting for the Thunder.
“Kevin’s contributions to our organization during his nine years were profound, on and off the court,” Thunder Chairman Clayton I. Bennett said in a statement. “He helped the Thunder grow and succeed in immeasurable ways and impacted the community just the same.
“We thank him for his leadership, his play, and how he represented Oklahoma City and the entire state of Oklahoma.”