SALT LAKE CITY (CBS) – The Kevin Durant odyssey ended on Monday for the Celtics and 28 other teams around the league, but the debate about his decision to join the Golden State Warriors won’t be ending anytime soon.
By joining the best regular season team in NBA history, Durant has positioned himself to earn a multitude of titles over the next decade, as he enters his prime aligned with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
From a winning perspective, you can’t fault Durant’s choice. He’s nine years into a Hall of Fame career without a title. Understandably, he doesn’t want to end up like players such as Charles Barkley and Karl Malone, a pair who will always have an asterisk tied to their careers due to coming up empty on the ring front.
Choosing any other team outside of Golden State would have made that asterisk a possibility for Durant. The Thunder, Spurs, and Clippers all have championship potential with him, and the Celtics could have down the road as well with a couple additional moves too. The Warriors are already there and it’s now a matter of how many they will win, not if, with Durant expected to be in the fold for years to come.
With that said, I was never a believer that Durant would take the easy way out on that front and join Golden State. The perfect storm of circumstances allowed him to do it and still save his image to a degree. The Thunder lost to the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, a collapse that wasn’t Durant’s fault but opened the door for his departure. It’s hard to imagine him leaving the region after a Finals appearance to a team he defeated in an earlier round.
On the same front, the Warriors’ meltdown against the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals also made them a team that could pitch Durant on needing his help moving forward. Joining a team that has already won two straight titles would be a tough sell from a legacy perspective. After falling to the Cavs, the Warriors had the ability to offer the max money he wanted and an open spot in the starting lineup (small forward) without messing with their core.
Still, all of these factors don’t compensate for the fact that Durant will no longer be the face of a team. He’ll get better shots in Golden State, but not as many. He’ll be sharing the spotlight with three other All-NBA players as well. At this point though, all of that may not have mattered to him. The Warriors play a pretty brand of basketball and one that Durant should fit in seamlessly.
My belief that the 27-year-old forward would not want to share a team with the league’s MVP was based on more of an old school mentality I guess. He had his own team for awhile and it didn’t get him anywhere. His ego is perhaps at a stage where he’s tired of carrying a team on his back or dealing with unpredictable on-court performer in Russell Westbrook.
The Celtics or some other team would have made for a better story, but that’s not what Durant cares about. He wants to win and he found a place he could do it happily. The seven-time All-Star took the easy way out, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just not the road most thought he would travel.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.