By Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley, AFRO Sports Desk
We’ve been so busy calculating LeBron James’ next move that we totally took Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors for granted. Not that we haven’t been marveling at their greatness even before Durant got there but we’ve just been assuming Golden State will hoist this year’s NBA crown. Locked into a current WWF-like match with the Houston Rockets, promising the Warriors anything at this point looks skeptical. But what if the Warriors lose? Could Durant, armed with a player options for next season, jump ship? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debates.
Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant drives to the basket against the Houston Rockets during the first half in Game 6 of the NBA basketball Western Conference Finals Saturday, May 26, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Riley: It’s not out of the question even if they win. Durant took a page out of LeBron’s book and signed a quick two-year deal that gave him the option to depart this summer. Whether win or lose, the mission might be complete for Durant. He came, he won, and he laughed in the faces of many critics on his way to a championship and Finals MVP. Doubling down this season would be ideal, but I don’t think Durant needs it. He has enough mettle now to headline a squad on his own and has proven that he can be the best player on the best team. The job may have already been done but if the Warriors don’t bring home a ring then Durant could venture off.
Green: If the Warriors don’t take the chip home then Durant will be right back in Oakland next season trying to bring it back to the city before his eventual departure after next season. Just my opinion. Leaving after a Finals loss would be another smear to Durant’s credibility and plus there may not a better situation right now than the Bay. Aside from Durant, Golden State’s core is locked up through the end of next season. Out of the Warriors’ top six rotation players, only Durant has the option to leave this summer so should he return then another chase at a ring will still be there.
Riley: Durant’s proven already that he doesn’t care about the smears or the criticism. He got over that fear when he left Oklahoma City, so him moving and playing where he pleases wouldn’t be a problem; if that’s what he wants to do. Cap space may not be aplenty across the league, but some team would make room for last year’s Finals MVP once he declares where he wants to go. Just like LeBron had to head to Miami to get his championship credentials, Durant had to leave as well to earn his. But with a ring already on his hand, the possibility is very real that Durant could test out his options. Even as the top scorer in Oakland, he’s still second fiddle to Stephen Curry and maybe even Draymond Green. Durant’s the best player on the roster, no doubt, but the Warriors will always belong to Curry and Green and potentially missing out on a ring this year could be the last straw for all-world Durant.
Green: The move to Golden State was highly critical and leaving that situation should the Warriors fizzle out would be too much to bare for the still-sensitive Durant. I can’t even fathom what the fan reaction would be to see Durant skirt out of town if the mighty Warriors are upset. To leave America’s “superteam” after losing would prove his superstardom fraudulent to the critics who’ve been questioning it since his OKC days. But what’s going to hurt Durant more than anything is that there’s nowhere to go that’s better than his current gig. When LeBron left Cleveland that was for an upgrade. Even when he left Miami to go back to Cleveland, that was still an upgrade. When Durant left OKC, that was an upgrade. But leaving the Warriors right now is a clear downgrade. The management, weather, fans and the roster is too perfect right now to walk away from.