NBA superstars, apparently, don’t much like hearing they’re playing for super-teams.
A few days after Cleveland Cavaliers legend LeBron James claimed after losing the NBA Finals, “I don’t believe I’ve played for a super-team,” which was funny, since he joined pairs of All-NBA teammates in both Miami and Cleveland, Warriors star Kevin Durant doesn’t think his team is all that super, either.
“First of all, if everybody wanted Steph, he would have been the No. 1 pick,” Durant told reporters during his exit interview on Wednesday, according to ESPN. “A lot of people passed on him. A lot of people doubted Steph, saying he wasn’t going to be this good. Klay Thompson, he was just supposed to be this OK shooter in the league, like that’s what you thought of Klay Thompson when he came in. Draymond, nobody wanted him. He was a 6-5 power forward. [They said] he couldn’t play in the league, he couldn’t start in the NBA. Shaun Livingston had a crazy knee injury.
“Nobody wanted him. Nobody thought that he would get back to being Shaun Livingston. Andre Iguodala, he got traded a couple of times. Nobody wanted him. A lot of people didn’t expect these guys to be where they are today. Superteam? No, we just work extremely well together. Coach puts us in position to maximize our strengths.”
The vast majority of Durant’s self-described “rant” is entirely true, with the exception of two sentences: “Super-team? No, we just work extremely well together.” The Warriors are a freaking juggernaut, as super as any team has ever been, and they work well together — for the most part — because they have four All-Stars, including two recent MVPs, all of whom are playing in their prime.
It is true Curry dropped behind Jonny Flynn in the 2009 NBA draft, Thompson fell behind Jimmer Fredette in 2011 and Green slid behind 34 other players the following year. Livingston did suffer a horrible knee injury in 2007. Teams wanted him, but only the LeBron-less Cavs off waivers at the minimum in 2013. And Andre Iguodala was traded for Andrew Bynum in 2012 and Randy Foye in 2013.
All of those seem like horrendous decisions in retrospect. They also seemed that way in 2016, when that core was super enough to win the Warriors 73 games and get Durant to join them in free agency.
Listen, we get what Durant is trying to say. He doesn’t want to let the term super-team minimize the road he took to a title, how critical his role was in winning it or how hard they all worked to get there.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr did well to mesh the egos of a star-laden roster, and he worked Durant into Golden State’s ever-flowing schemes faster than the Heat or Cavaliers figured out how to get James to harmonize with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami or Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in Cleveland.
But none of that means the Warriors aren’t a great team. Which is why Durant clarified his comments:
“We make each other better and it’s not about who gets the credit,” said Durant, via ESPN. “It’s like, really just about having fun playing ball and let’s see how we can win together and that alone just helps the ego. So, sorry I went on a little rant, but that’s how I feel about the team. A lot of these guys beat the odds and came out and played a great brand of basketball and put the team first. That should be rewarded, and it did get rewarded with a championship.”
That’s more than fair.
Durant would prefer we discuss how those Warriors created a fun basketball atmosphere and a winning culture, which is why he wanted to join them, than everyone still talking about how he joined the 73-win team that beat his Oklahoma City Thunder in 2016. That may be too much to ask of basketball fans everywhere, but at least he has a title and a Finals MVP to show for his trouble.
Really, though, it just seems to be the pejorative nature of “super-team” that Durant and James are taking issue with, as if joining those teams somehow made them less valuable to their success. But if you told them the 2017 Warriors and 2013 Heat are great teams — two of the greatest in NBA history — would they have any issue with that sentiment? NBA rules allowed them the freedom to join those teams, to make them super, but that doesn’t mean they get to dictate how people talk about them.
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