Warriors GM explains Kevin Durant's decision to leave

Mark Medina, The Mercury News on

Published in Basketball

OAKLAND -- In normal circumstances, the Warriors' pitch to Kevin Durant would be simple.

The Warriors could offer him the most money. After winning two NBA titles in the past three years, the Warriors could offer him the best chance at winning. Durant did not have interest, though, in the Warriors' five-year, $221 million offer and their championship equity. Instead, Durant teamed up with Kyrie Irving and accepted a four-year, $164 million deal with the Brooklyn Nets.

Therefore, GM Bob Myers did not need much time to consider this question. Could the Warriors have done anything differently to convince Durant to stay?

"I don't think so," Myers said on Monday at the Warriors' practice facility.

Granted, Durant's time with the Warriors did not just entail hoisting NBA championship and Finals MVP trophies. Durant fielded persistent criticism for leaving Oklahoma City as a free agent in 2016 to join a Warriors team that already had established All-Stars in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Although Durant and his teammates produced well enough to win and land more All-Star appearances, all parties occasionally felt a push-pull on to what extent they lean on Durant as opposed to their other All-Stars. Durant and Draymond Green shouted at each other during one game this season, and Green even dared him to leave. The Warriors fielded criticism after Durant injured his right Achilles tendon in against Toronto in Game 5 of the NBA Finals after missing the previous nine games with a strained right calf.

Did any of those variables factor into the Durant's departure? Myers suggested they did not.

"He felt like it was something inside of him and his heart that he wanted to try something different," Myers said. "There was nothing wrong about it. I'm at peace about it. I hope our fans can be, too. One of the best athletes we've ever seen come through our city and certainly this organization."

Myers had different emotions when he estimated for him for about an hour or two in New York on the June 30, the first day of free agency. Then, Myers recalled he "was kind of sad" as he processed Durant's departure. Myers said the two also talked about "life" and other undisclosed topics. Durant also updated Myers on his progress with his right Achilles tendon.

That marked the first time Myers saw Durant since he injured his right Achilles in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Afterwards, Myers held a post-game press conference and fought back tears, while calling Durant "misunderstood" and clearing all parties from any blame for Durant's injury. Instead, Myers insisted the general public should blame him though the Warriors insist they cleared Durant's return with the front office, coaching staff, training staff, Durant, his business manager (Rich Kleiman), and Durant's own doctors.

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"I'm more to see him how he's doing as a human being. We talked all the time in his three years here and talked about a lot of different things," Myers said. "It wasn't slamming the door."

Instead, Myers extended an olive branch to Durant by calling him a "great part of our fabric" during the Warriors' two NBA title runs in the past three years. Just like when Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob announced no one will ever wear Durant's number under his leadership, Myers focused more on what Durant did for the Warriors than lamenting for his exit.

Myers called Durant's arrival "a blessing" before calling "a treat" to observe Durant practice and play games wearing a Warriors uniform.

"He was everything we could've asked for," Myers said. "He represented us on the court. He represented us off the court. He still has a great relationship with a lot of his teammates, myself and the coaching staff. He just wanted to try something new."

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