Kevin Durant had it made in Golden State. The Warriors won the NBA championship in his first season with the team, and then repeated the next year. Both times, Durant was named Finals MVP, affirming his place among the sport’s all-time greats.
But after suffering a torn Achilles in the playoffs during his third season with the team, KD decided to leave as a free agent. His interest in New York was one of the worst kept secrets in sports. He ultimately signed a four-year, $164 million contract with the Brooklyn Nets, with a player option on the final season.
Durant will miss the entirety of the 2019-20 season as he rehabs his injury, but his exit still stings for Golden State. The Warriors started the new season off in disarray, as the loss of Klay Thompson to injury and an alarming lack of depth have only underscored the team’s issues without KD.
Durant has offered a variety of answers when asked why he left the Warriors. This is why KD left the bay, in his own words.
Durant at Nets media day: “I felt like it was time for a change”
Durant offered his first in-person explanation for why he decided to leave the Warriors at Nets media day in September. In addition to stating that he wanted to play with Kyrie Irving and was intrigued by the Nets’ young core, Durant also went into detail about why he left Golden State:
“I felt like it was time for a change. I wanted to play for a new team. Simply put, I just did it. I didn’t really think about what I was leaving behind or what we accomplished. I put that up on the shelf already. When it was time to make a decision on my future, I just thought solely about me.”
Durant said he made the decision to join the Nets during a text conversation with Irving and De’Andre Jordan at 4:15 a.m. “We were like, ‘are we ready to do it?’ Everybody was like ‘yeah.’”
Durant in the WSJ: “As time went on, I started to realize I’m just different from the rest of the guys.”
Durant opened up in an exclusive interview with the Wall Street Journal in September on a variety of topics, including his exit from Golden State.
Here is Durant’s answer when asked to explain why he left the Warriors:
“I came in there wanting to be part of a group, wanting to be part of a family, and definitely felt accepted,” Durant told the Wall Street Journal’s J.R. Moehringer. “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. And the rest of the guys kind of rehabilitated their careers there. So me? Shit, how you going to rehabilitate me? What you going to teach me? How can you alter anything in my basketball life? I got an MVP already. I got scoring titles.”
“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 [give] a full acceptance of me there.”
Durant also cited basketball reasons for his decision to leave the Warriors:
“‘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.”
KD admitted on-court fight with Draymond Green also played a role
Kevin Durant admits beef with Draymond Green led to him leaving Golden State pic.twitter.com/tnZDm39WX2— gifdsports (@gifdsports) October 31, 2019
The first public fissure in the Durant’s relationship with the Warriors played out during a game against the Clippers in November 2018. The Warriors had staked a major comeback to tie the Clippers at the end of regulation. Durant fired a quick three that missed as time ticked away in an attempt to go for a two-for-one. After the Clippers missed on the other end, Green corralled the rebound and raced up the court and Durant clapped for the ball. Green would stumble and regulation ended without a shot attempt.
At the time, SB Nation asked “Is the Kevin Durant-Draymond Green shouting match a big deal?”
Durant finally answered this question on ESPN when pressed by Stephen A. Smith.
“A little bit, yeah, for sure,” Durant said. “If your teammate talked to you that way, you think about it a bit. Like I said, we talked about it, but definitely, for sure, I’m not going to lie about it.”
“I just felt like I needed a switch. I felt like a lot of stuff in Golden State had reared its head. I felt like that was going to be the end no matter what, especially for that group. Shaun Livingston was retiring, Andre was getting older, our contracts were going to start putting the team in the hole to get other players. It was time for us to separate.”
Durant doesn’t blame the Warriors for his injury
Durant suffered a “strained calf” in the Warriors’ second round playoff matchup against the Rockets. Golden State would advance to the NBA Finals without their star, where they were trailing the Raptors, 3-1, heading into Game 5 when it was announced Durant would try to play.
Durant 11 points in 12 minutes before falling to the ground in pain on a sudden move. He would rupture his Achilles. The Raptors clinched their NBA championship the following game.
Golden State received criticism following the game for letting Durant play through the injury, with some suggesting they pressured him to do so. In an interview with Yahoo! Sports, Durant absolved the Warriors of blame.
“Hell, no. How can you blame [the Warriors]? Hell, no,” Durant told Yahoo Sports. “I heard the Warriors pressured me into getting back. Nobody never said a word to me during rehab as I was coming back. It was only me and [director of sports medicine and performance] Rick [Celebrini] working out every day. Right when the series started, I targeted Game 5. Hell, nah. It just happened. It’s basketball. S--- happens. Nobody was responsible for it. It was just the game. We just need to move on from that s--- because I’m going to be back playing.”