Kevin Durant wanted to hit free agency in 2019, not be locked in longer with the Warriors.
Especially in hindsight, it’s easy to see why. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving – who’d been discussing it for a while – reportedly decided before last season to sign with the same team last summer. They ultimately both joined the Nets.
Even at the time, clues were apparent. Despite stating reluctance about taking another discount, Durant signed a contract in 2018 that didn’t maximize his earnings, because that was the only way to structure a shorter deal. Durant’s company moved to New York.
The Warriors played last season under the cloud of Durant’s looming free agency.
Draymond Green, via Uninterrupted:
What should have happened was Kevin come out and say, “Hey, man, this is it.” Like, “So, let’s do this.” Or, “This isn’t it.” But you can’t just leave the elephant in the room.
Because what happened was, the question came to us every day. Every time we spoke to the media, Klay and myself was asked about our contracts, and it was strictly due to Kevin. Because while that was going on, Klay was saying, “I want to be a Warrior forever. I want to be here. We started this thing. This is where I want to be.” I’m saying, “I want to be here for my career. We started this. We built this. I want to finish my career here with the guys I started it with.”
And then you kind of had Kevin like, “I don’t know what I’m going to do next year, and it don’t matter.” But it does matter, because you’re not the only person that has to answer that question.
And to be quite frank with you, you’re honestly the last person that has to answer the question because you don’t really say s—. You don’t say much to the media. If anything, you tell them to shut the f— up. Well, I don’t tell them to shut the f— up. I kind of have a conversation. And so I’m stuck answering that question all the time.
And due to that, there was always an elephant in the room amongst us.
This is so unfair.
If Durant said he were going to leave, that would have created an even more toxic situation. Durant’s devotion to the Warriors would have been widely questioned. How much would he help the team with one foot out the door? I doubt Green would have respected that one bit.
If Durant said he were going to stay, he would have boxed himself into an impossible corner. He earned the right to free agency in 2019. There was no good reason for him to relinquish that a year earlier just to temper media inquiries. Or Durant could have lied – said he’d stay then departed, anyway. I bet Green would have respected that even less.
Even if Durant planned before the season to depart, he had a right to change his mind. In fact, late in the season, signs emerged Durant was giving more consideration to staying. Did Green really want a highly talented teammate anchored to the idea of leaving? The best thing for the Warriors would have been Durant keeping an open mind.
The situation was going to be awkward last season no matter what Durant said. It was unavoidable.
But both Green and Durant handled it especially horribly at times. Green infamously blew up at Durant during a game, profanely telling the superstar that the Warriors didn’t need him and that he should just leave. Durant lashed out at the media for writing things Durant would later corroborate.
It was also unfair to pin the burden of relieving tension solely on Durant.
More than anything, it was circumstantial. All contracts eventually expire. As that point nears, there will be questions.
But the Warriors also leaned into suspicions. In 2018, Durant said he’d re-sign. Yet, some within the organization didn’t believe him. The 2018 championship parade got awkward with jokes about Durant leaving.
So was Green, and I’m sympathetic to him repeatedly having to answer questions about Durant’s free agency. That can be wearing.
But no matter what Durant said, he was going to be a free agent in the summer of 2019. People care where one of the NBA’s best players plays.
There was no way around that.