The New Kevin Durant

Earlier this week, Kevin Durant told the media that he didn’t get out of bed for days after signing with the Golden State Warriors. Unless he twisted his ankle and couldn’t walk, It’s hard to buy that story.

Durant was completely entitled to choose Golden State and more power to him for doing what he wanted, but amid Gary criticism for his decision, this is nothing more than a plea for sympathy. He wanted to go there. People got upset, but it’s over now. It’s almost like he can’t decide whether he wants to be the villain or the misunderstood hero. Anyways, the dust has settled, Kevin Durant is now a Golden State Warrior, and somehow, a sense of normalcy has returned to the NBA. Now, smoke is pouring out of Steve Kerr’s ears as he figures out how to maximize Durant’s output on the revamped Warriors’ squad.
The honeymoon is over in this new marriage of superstar and super team, and it’s time to go back to work and start paying the bills. Surely, Kerr and his staff already had a rough idea of how they would use Durant before the signing, but now that he’s on board, the real planning can begin. Everyone knows it won’t be easy to get maximum production from everyone when there are 4 great players on the court at once, but the trick is to ensure that each of them are placed in a position where they can thrive. Unfortunately, that trick is, well, tricky.

We saw firsthand in the 2010-11 season what it looks like when a super team is still ironing out the kinks, as the Miami Heat struggled out of the gate. You may recall there were even rumors that they could fire Erik Spoelstra, a coach who went on to win two titles in the big three era.

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On the court, the problem begins with chemistry. While Steph Curry in the past two seasons alone has solidified himself among the top three players in the league, it is impossible to know how he will be affected by the presence of another superstar. Durant’s arrival could place Curry between a rock and a hard place, having to choose between asserting himself over Durant as the alpha dog, or conceding and settling for second best. Curry is a player that thrives when he gets in a groove. How many times have we seen stretches in the third or fourth quarter where you think “no way he will hit this one”, and he does it. Every. Damn. Time. With Durant getting his share of touches, maybe there is less room there for Curry to get in that rhythm.

Aside from the starters, it will be interesting to watch how the bench performs under these new changes. In acquiring Kevin Durant, the Warriors have sacrificed depth for dynamite. When their stars are clicking, it’s hard to make a case that anyone could beat Golden State, but suppose they lose a star for a prolonged period of time. Is their bench capable of picking up the slack? It’s not that their bench is necessarily bad, but compared to the stellar bench of the past two seasons that aided them in back-to-back Finals appearances, it certainly pales in comparison.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for the Golden State Warriors out of the gate will be keeping everyone’s ego in check. Despite everyone on the Warriors being completely cool with Durant, having 4 all-stars on one roster lends itself to an ego conflict. It could be like the movie Rat Race. You have all these hilarious actors but at the end of the day, it’s kind of an awful product once you put it all together. People have compared the Warriors lineup to an all-star or Olympic lineup, and while that is great on the court, there could be issues.

Picture Team USA playing an entire season of basketball together. A lot of talent, but also a lot of ego. What if Durant misses a few game winning shots and Curry gets upset because he feels he would’ve made them? Everything is rainbows and butterflies before the season starts, but seeing how the Warriors react to conflict will be very interesting.

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Speaking of Olympics, it will be interesting to watch Durant have the opportunity to play with Thompson and Green on Team USA. You think Steve Kerr is texting Coach K throughout the entire Olympics with a “psst, try this play with KD and Draymond”? Those guys are going to look really good against the rest of the world (who obviously isn’t very good). It could be a preview of what’s to come for the Golden State.

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