If Game 7 of the NBA Finals was a thudding reminder of the pain other NBA franchises endure, and if it was an end to the dream this Steve Kerr-era Golden State Warriors squad had been living, then the signing of Kevin Durant is a way back to impossibly happy reverie. Adding Durant to the best shooting team of all time seems too decadent to be true, a sight even more surreal than recent photos of famously stone-faced assistant coach Ron Adams smiling.
But this indeed is real life, and Adams is indeed beaming as the young phenom he coached with the Oklahoma City Thunder joins up with the Warriors ("Ron Adams was the only reason I came," Durant quipped in his news conference). The league-wrecking Warriors were momentarily chastened, having seen their pride turned into a punchline. Now they're back and bigger than ever.
Warriors owner Joe Lacob sighed deeply when a reporter asked if this signing was "light-years ahead," a catchphrase Lacob inadvertently started.
"I'll let you guys decide how you want to describe this," he replied. "I think we have improved our team as hard as it seems to believe, a 73-win team, I think we've improved our team, because [Durant] is so good."
There was a funny dance to Durant's introduction. The actors involved sought to make what happened seem all so recent, maybe to avoid tampering suspicions, maybe to spare feelings in Oklahoma. Durant relayed that he made his choice at 7 a.m. on the morning of July 4.
Perhaps that's true, but few around the league believe it. Moves of this magnitude usually aren't made so suddenly. The Warriors had been recruiting Durant for months, if not longer, with Draymond Green leading the charge. Golden State had gotten indications earlier than July 4 that this marriage was imminent.
But the news conference was not about the past, especially if questions pertained to a messy divorce from the Thunder. Full speed ahead, into the future. Light-years.
By most accounts, Durant was pulled in this direction by Golden State's players, but he was also keenly curious about the possibility of a future arena in San Francisco. Per that curiosity, Lacob relayed, "I wanted him to know what was in the future and what the organization was planning. And so we did that and I think he was pretty excited about what he saw. We've talked about [the arena] several times since."
With this move, Durant is likely betting on the future. Right now he's the focus of some criticism, allegations that a title would be tainted on account of all the help. The bet is that history is reductive. Eventually, the championship is all that's left in the collective memory.
After his news conference, Durant offered another theory on what matters: "What's important, what lasts forever is the game. The game of basketball. They play it the right way."
For all the focus on Durant's championship ambitions, perhaps this aspect has been undersold. The Warriors move the ball, which probably has something to do with why Durant moved here. Durant is trusting a playing style he wants to participate in, and believing it will endure beyond today's framing of his choice.
Of the pressure involved, Durant said, "I've dealt with a lot of pressure, more pressure than this, my family growing up." For all the noise around his decision, this is still just basketball, and, by the early indications, it's a decision he made based on basketball. Considering that the decision means joining forces with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Green and Andre Iguodala, it's a choice that might define the sport for years to come.