WALNUT CREEK, Calif. – The virtual reality had to wait.
Inside a mansion in the Hamptons, where Kevin Durant had been given the high-tech goggles during his free agency meeting with the Golden State Warriors on July 1 for a preview presentation of his future life, it didn’t take long for him to figure out that the real thing was even better than this video.
The conversation with his future teammates flowed from the start, with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Durant clicking so much that Durant put down the glasses to take it all in. As we know now, it all felt right for all of them. And three days later, when Durant made the stunning decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder and help the Warriors recapture the crown that was lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers last June, this whole scene wasn’t VR anymore.
But the key question in that room, the mystery that Durant’s associates kept investigating throughout the process, was whether the Warriors stars truly wanted to share the spotlight with him. And Curry, one could argue in the wake of his back-to-back MVP seasons and the Warriors’ unprecedented 73-win season, had more to lose than the rest by bringing yet another former MVP into the fold.
“At that point, you think, for us to be able to add a player like that (who) I thought could make us better as a team and help us win championships, that’s a no-brainer,” Curry told USA TODAY Sports during a commercial shoot with Degree Men deodorant recently. “That’s why these teams are lining up (during free agency). My whole approach as a leader of the team is (that) we are an ego-less, unselfish basketball team that understands we have great individual talent and we all want to be the best player we can be, and that’s why we’re in this position right now that we’ve been in the last two or three years.
“But we can get better, and if he decided he wanted to come play for us – or with us, I should say – that it would be different, and a hard transition because there are some things that you’ll have to figure out when it comes to how we’re going to play, but at the end of the day, I like our chances.”
The subplot to this free agency tale is well known by now. In 2010, Curry, Andre Iguodala and Durant were part of the Team USA squad that won gold at the FIBA Championships in Turkey. They bonded there, and again when Curry and Durant were together on the 2014 Team USA squad in Spain for the FIBA World Cup, creating a connection that would come in handy six years later.
“Oh yeah,” Curry said when asked if those intersections played a part in the relationship-building process that led to Durant’s arrival. “You have experiences with guys when you’re playing in the league. Whether you’re playing with Team USA in the summer or whatever, you know guys’ characters, you know what they’re about. And I don’t think there was any question for us what kind of player KD is and with the characters that we have on our team, that he would jell really easily.
“So having played with him in 2010 and for a little bit in 2014, I know he loves to play the game the right way, I know he wants to be great and is driven to do that just like the rest of us. But he wants to win and have fun, and I think that’s the priority over any inner fight over individual accolades and all that kind of stuff. That message was pretty clear with his decision.”
The question of ego was at the center of the process as well. With one ball for them to share, and Curry, Thompson, and Green all coming off of seasons in which they averaged career highs in attempts, Durant’s presence will inevitably change that offensive landscape. And Curry, more than the rest, will have a tougher time dominating in the kind of transcendent way he did last season.
“I think I have a healthy ego, meaning that when I’m on the court I feel like I’m the best player out there, that I can do anything I want to do, and that I want to be driven to be the best that I can be,” said Curry, who posted career highs in scoring (a league-leading 30.1 points per game), three pointers (402), rebounds (5.4 per) and steals (2.1 per) during the Warriors’ unprecedented 73-win regular season. “But it’s not like a ‘Look at me, look at me,’ kind of thing. And I think that’s the same with Klay, the same with Draymond, the same with Andre and KD, which is why it jells.
“We don’t have to sacrifice. I don’t think anybody has to do anything different than they already do when it comes to night in and night out. If everybody is the best version of themselves, we’ll be a pretty powerful team. But I don’t think anybody is going to be running to the podium, like ‘Yeah, I did this. I did that,’ which is where it can get a little distracting.”