Kevin Durant announced over the weekend that he will be sporting a new jersey number as he begins the next chapter of his Hall of Fame career, and some are wondering if he hinted at the change while he was still playing for the Golden State Warriors.
At the start of the playoffs back in April, Durant answered questions from reporters while wearing a hat with the No. 7 on it, which is the number he has chosen with the Brooklyn Nets.
KD gave a hint back in April. pic.twitter.com/CAMvqoTX8U
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 7, 2019
The hat is part of a collection called the Compound “7” Snapback. Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry wore a similar hat during the playoffs, but it makes more sense since he wears jersey No. 7.
Of course, it’s possible Durant just likes the brand. Some fans will want to believe that Durant was subtly hinting at his departure from Golden State, but that seems unlikely during a playoff run. Changing jersey numbers is likely a representation of a new era for Durant, and a nice gesture from the Warriors may have actually helped him make the decision.
- Kevin Durant
A new era for Kevin Durant means a new jersey number.
Durant posted a picture to his Twitter account showing off his new Brooklyn Nets jersey — with a notably new number. After wearing No. 35 throughout his entire career with both the Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors, he will switch to No. 7 in Brooklyn.
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) July 7, 2019
Durant has tied himself to his old number pretty tightly — his off-court business is even named Thirty Five Ventures — so this is a pretty abrupt change. It may simply be his way of moving into a brand new era, especially after the Warriors announced they’d be taking his old No. 35 out of circulation. That chapter is over now that he’s committed to Brooklyn for the long haul.
- Kevin Durant
Bobby Portis was one of the players the New York Knicks signed after they missed out on superstar free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and the former first-round pick says his new team should have known it would have plenty of extra money to spend this summer.
Portis signed a two-year, $31 million deal with the Knicks not long after free agency began. The Knicks showed interest in him early on, and he knew they would have the cap space to sign him. Why? According to the 6-foot-11 forward, it was the worst-kept secret in the NBA that Durant and Irving were heading to Brooklyn.
“I knew what was gonna happen in February,” Portis said, via Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. “We all knew that (Durant and Kyrie Irving would go to Brooklyn). Everybody knew that. I just don’t think the media knew that. Us basketball players, we all knew that.”
Portis said he is not going to reveal his source but added “we all know where they were going.”
Players around the NBA talk, and it was probably quite obvious that Durant and Irving were committed to playing together. One player who is better than Kyrie even tried to recruit Durant and had no luck, so that says a lot. Irving also seemed 100 percent committed to the Nets from the start. Put all of that together and you have two guys who are headed to Brooklyn.
Kawhi Leonard successfully recruited Paul George to seek a trade and join him on the Los Angeles Clippers, but George was reportedly not the first star player Leonard sought to play with.
According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, Leonard called Kevin Durant days before NBA free agency opened and asked him to join him in Los Angeles and sign with the Clippers. Sources close to Durant called him “flattered and a little stunned” to receive a recruiting call from a player who he didn’t know well, but it made a positive impression.
By this point, however, Durant was already planning on joining the Brooklyn Nets to play with close friends Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan, and he chose to stick to that plan. Leonard turned his attention to George, a player with whom he shared many similarities, and successfully convinced him to demand a trade to the Clippers. George was impressed with Leonard’s recruiting effort as well, with a source calling him “a hell of a recruiter” despite his quiet demeanor.
It seems that the report about Durant and Leonard discussing joining forces was the truth. What we didn’t know at the time was that Durant was already plotting his move to Brooklyn in spite of Leonard’s efforts, and Leonard, it seems, always had his heart set on playing for the Clippers despite the multitude of rumors stating that either the Toronto Raptors or rival Lakers were the frontrunners.
There were rumblings of Kevin Durant leaving the Golden State Warriors well before last season began, but Kendrick Perkins believes the team had a solid chance to re-sign him right up until the incident between Durant and Draymond Green.
Perkins, who played with Durant in Oklahoma City, spoke about the relationship between Durant and Green during an appearance on ESPN’s “The Jump” this week. Things came to a boil when Durant called out Green for not passing the ball near the end of an eventual overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers back in November.
“I think, in my opinion, KD never bounced back from the Draymond situation. … The Warriors tried to clean it up by suspending Draymond,” Perkins said. “They suspended Draymond and then about two months later, the owner comes back out and says he wants Draymond there for life.”
Perkins said he has gotten into heated arguments with almost all of his teammates but they “never crossed the line” the way he feels Green did. It was reported at the time that Green told Durant the Warriors don’t need him and challenged him to leave in free agency. Perkins believes that was “the last straw” for Durant.
“It’s hard to overcome that,” Perkins said. “Those were some harsh words. … I think that was the last straw.”
A number of factors are believed to have played a role in Durant’s decision, and even his relationship with Stephen Curry may have been one of them. At the very least, the feud with Green didn’t help.
Stephen Curry went out of his way to meet with Kevin Durant after Durant announced on Sunday that he was signing with the Brooklyn Nets, and many were surprised that Curry flew such a long way just to say goodbye. It would make more sense, however, if Curry was flying around the world to convince Durant to re-sign with the Golden State Warriors and never got a chance to give his pitch.
Marcus Thompson of The Athletic reported that Curry flew from China to New York to meet with Durant, but the trip ended up being about “respect” and “thanks” rather than recruiting. Thompson added that Curry wanted to be there “to wish Durant happiness and peace (and) express his support for his decision,” but it seems obvious his initial goal was to make one final pitch to KD. According to Bill Simmons, the fact that Durant did not even give Curry that opportunity irritated the Warriors.
Here’s some of what Simmons said about the situation on the latest episode of his podcast.
“The Warriors still feel like they have a puncher’s chance to get him — enough that Curry is going to fly back from Shanghai to New York and land on Sunday night, right after free agency starts, and he has this determined time with KD to just talk with him and put a bow on everything,” Simmons said. “Either, ‘Hey man, here’s how we feel about you…’ and convince him to stay, and if Durant’s not gonna stay they’ll talk about that.”
For whatever reason, Durant didn’t wait until Curry arrived to announce his decision. Simmons was told that that surprised the two-time NBA MVP and rubbed the Warriors the wrong way.
“About an hour before the plane lands, all of a sudden it’s KD is gonna be announcing on his Instagram that night, all this stuff and Curry’s like, ‘What’s going on?’ And then it gets announced he’s signing with Brooklyn,” Simmons said. “Curry’s plane hasn’t landed yet. He lands and decides to do the dignified thing and he goes to meet KD anyway, basically to say goodbye to him. But, from what I’ve heard, the Warriors took that personally.”
Curry is a classy guy, but flying 16 hours from China to New York just to hang out with Durant and support his decision seems like a grand gesture even for him. It’s not hard to believe he still felt he had a chance to persuade Durant, and maybe Durant gave him the impression he’d hear him out.
The relationship between Curry and Durant sounds like it was a bit complicated, so perhaps Durant didn’t want anyone else trying to change his mind. We’ll probably never know.
Kevin Durant may have decided that spending three seasons with the Golden State Warriors was enough, but the team still has plans to recognize him as one of the most important players in franchise history.
On Monday, Warriors owner Joe Lacob announced that Durant’s No. 35 jersey will be retired. He called Durant “an integral part to one of the most prolific runs in NBA history” and said no player will ever wear that number for Golden State again.
Statement from Warriors Co-Chairman & CEO Joe Lacob on Kevin Durant: pic.twitter.com/D2TPPZPuz1
— Warriors PR (@WarriorsPR) July 1, 2019
Durant won back-to-back championships with the Warriors and was named the NBA Finals MVP twice, so he certainly deserves plenty of credit for what the team has been able to accomplish over the past three years. That said, there will be plenty of fans who disagree with his number being retired after he spent such a short time in Golden State. Some players may even feel the same way.
One of the main reasons Durant left the Warriors was that he did not feel the love from his teammates the way he initially hoped he would, but he’s certainly getting it from the organization in the wake of his departure.