LAS VEGAS — It wasn’t the highest of stakes, but after a heavily hyped announcement and all the fallout that resulted from it, Kevin Durant has now played organized basketball with some of his new Golden State Warriors teammates.
In a 111-74 blowout win over Argentina in an exhibition game at Las Vegas’ brand-new T-Mobile Arena, Durant shared the court with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, who will make up three-fifths of the most formidable starting lineup in the NBA. Durant looked plenty comfortable, leading all scorers with 23 points on 7-of-12 shooting and making four three-pointers. Thompson and Green came off the bench, but the three Warriors shared the court in the second quarter.
Not that Durant was really thinking about it.
“I was just lost in the game,” he said afterwards. “I didn’t really notice, I was lost in the game and trying to play the right way. We worry about what Coach K wants us to do. I’m sure they felt the same way. We didn’t talk about it.”
“It was great,” he said of playing with Durant for the first time. “You don’t really pay attention to the fact that we’re teammates [in the NBA]. We’re all teammates. We’re all going for the same goal.”
To be sure, these exhibition games — and even the real games in Rio next month — are nothing like what the Warriors will experience playing together when the regular season kicks off in the fall. The Olympics feature the top talent from all over the world, but the disparity in talent between the USA’s group and any other country is so staggering that most of the games are likely going to turn out like this one.
Green didn’t want to compare this experience with something like the NBA Finals.
“It’s a little different,” Green said. “Because when you’re in the Finals, No. 1 you play a team seven times, No. 2 you already know the guys. We know [Manu] Ginobili, [Andres] Nocioni, [Luis] Scola. We’ve played against those guys a bunch of times, but not at a level where you know everything they do. When you’re in the Finals, I know everything Kyrie does. It’s just a matter of, can you stop it or not? Just because you know he’s gonna do it doesn’t mean you can stop it. Here, it’s a little different because of these guys we’ve never played before.”
Next week, Durant will play his first game at his new home when the USA faces off with China on Tuesday in Oakland. They’re all looking forward to it, especially Green.
“Definitely looking forward to getting back home,” Green said. “I think it will be something special, especially with the KD announcement. Him coming in there for the first time with a USA jersey. It’ll be pretty unique.”
The last time Durant played at Oracle Arena, the circumstances were very different. Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder took an unexpected 3-1 lead over the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals before dropping three straight games, leading to a Warriors trip to the Finals and, ultimately, Durant’s exit from Oklahoma City.
This time around, Durant will have the fans at Oracle on his side. Not that he needs any preparation.
Said Green, with a smile: “He knows all about Oracle.”