In a move that will shake up the balance of power in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors have signed free agent forward Kevin Durant, the team officially announced. Durant, a former league MVP and one of the top five players in the world, joins an already loaded Warriors squad that won an NBA-record 73 regular season games last year. Durant will wear #35 for the Warriors.
"When I met these guys, I felt as comfortable as I've ever felt," said Durant of meeting his new Warriors teammates. "It was organic, it was authentic, it was real, and it was feelings I couldn't ignore. I made a decision to come and play for these guys, and I feel great, and I feel excited about this opportunity."
A six-time All-NBA Selection (five First Team, one Second Team) and four-time single-season scoring leader, Durant was named the league MVP in 2013-14, tallying a career-best and league-leading 32.0 points per game.
Durant's signing not only strengthens a Warriors squad featuring All-Stars Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and reigning MVP Stephen Curry, but also simultaneously weakens his former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
"We have guys who are not just shooters, not just ball handlers," said Head Coach Steve Kerr. "We kind of have a bunch of basketball players, and that's what's made our team really good the last couple years. So to add another guy who is so talented and not just a shooter or not just a defender, he's a basketball player, and we think the style fits him perfectly. We think he suits us perfectly, and the combination of all these guys playing together should be a lot of fun to watch."
Last year, the 6-9 forward led the Thunder to the Western Conference Finals for the fourth time in the last six seasons, falling to the Warriors in a hard-fought, seven-game series. Durant led all scorers in the postseason with 28.4 points to go with 7.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 40.3 minutes over 18 games.
With Durant now removed from Oklahoma City's lineup, the Thunder are a likely borderline lottery team in the highly competitive West.
"That call to Oklahoma City was the hardest thing to do I've ever had to do in my life," said Durant. "Tears were shed, but this is, like I said, a new journey for me, testing the unknown, and I trusted it. I trusted my gut. I trusted my instincts. It's the unpopular decision, but I can live with it."
Durant also provides the Warriors with an excellent weapon to match against LeBron James, should they face the Cavs again in the NBA Finals.
"We had a pretty tough time in the Playoffs with Kevin's length and versatility defensively, and of course that's kind of been our calling card as a defense the last couple years, the versatility, the ability to switch, and Kevin fits perfectly into that style," said Kerr.
Durant, 27, posted averages of 28.2 points, a career-high 8.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.18 blocks and 35.8 minutes in 72 games in 2015-16, earning his seventh consecutive NBA All-Star nod and becoming the first player to average at least 28 points, eight boards and five assists since Michael Jordan in 1988-89.
But don't tell Durant that by forming this new superteam, he has chosen the easy route to a ring.
"Nothing in this league is easy," said Durant. "There's no shortcuts. We've still got 82 games to play. It's an adjustment period."
A nine-year NBA veteran, Durant owns averages of 27.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.21 steals, 1.00 blocks and 37.8 minutes in 641 games (all starts) with the Thunder. Durant ranks as the Thunder franchise’s all-time leader in free throws (4,599) and three-point field goals (1,143) while ranking second in scoring (17,566), third in field goals made (5,912), fourth in rebounds (4,518), fourth in blocks (639), fourth in minutes (24,208), sixth in games played (641), seventh in assists (2,363) and eighth in steals (774).
The Washington, D.C., native has shot better than 50 percent from the field in each of the last four seasons and owns career percentages of 48.3 percent from the field, 38.0 percent from three-point range and 88.2 percent from the free throw line.
In 2012-13, Durant became the sixth player in NBA history to qualify for the league minimums in the 50/40/90 club (hit at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and 90 percent from the line), a group that was joined by Stephen Curry in 2015-16.
Originally selected by the Seattle SuperSonics with the second overall pick in the first round of the 2007 NBA Draft, Durant captured Rookie of the Year honors in Seattle in 2007-08 before the franchise relocated to Oklahoma City. In his lone collegiate season at the University of Texas in 2006-07, Durant was named the National Player of the Year and earned the Adolph Rupp Trophy, Naismith Award and Wooden Award, becoming the first-ever freshman in NCAA history to win any of those awards.
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services