Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant acknowledged Wednesday his relationship with former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook will never be the same and that he and his new teammates will have to adjust to being the NBA's "villains."
"I just told [Westbrook]. I let him know how I felt," Durant revealed in an interview with Sina Sports (via ESPN.com). "Obviously, our relationship won't ever be the same again. But it's something I wanted to do, and I expressed that to him. Hopefully he respected it."
Durant also spoke about the heated response from many fans regarding his decision to sign with the Warriors:
Yeah, it's difficult. I'm not used to this much attention, but I'm getting used to it. Obviously, people don't like me right now, but it is what it is. I can't please them all. I've got to still go out there and handle my business.
They're not going to get up at 9 o'clock in the morning and work on their game for me. I've got to do all of that on my own. I can't worry about people on the outside. I've got to go to sleep at night, I've got to get up and I've got to perform. I've got to do all that stuff. It is what it is. Once we start playing the games, I'll feel a little bit more better. Right now, it's definitely a change. There's a different vibe going around, but I'll get used to it.
It's hard to blame NBA fans for being terrified about the new superteam in the West. After all, the Warriors have reached two straight NBA Finals, winning in 2015, and they have two-time defending MVP Steph Curry already on the roster.
Now, they've added a player who averaged 28.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists last season and has established himself as one of the most dynamic offensive weapons of his generation.
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Even NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expressed the opinion that Durant's joining the Warriors wasn't "ideal from the league standpoint," per Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com, when he spoke at the league's annual board of governors meeting.
"For me, part of it is designing a collective bargaining agreement that encourages the distribution of great players throughout the league," Silver noted. "On the other hand, I absolutely respect a player's right to become a free agent and, in this case, for Kevin Durant to make a decision that he feels is best for him."
The comments may lead some to wonder whether the league will opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement on June 30, 2017 (the CBA will run until June 30, 2021, unless one of the sides opts out; the side opting out must notify the other party by Dec. 15). Durant's signing could have even greater implications, with Silver concerned about competitive balance in the league.
Indeed, Durant maintained his ultimate goal in joining the Warriors was to win a championship:
I want to win a championship, but you've got to play great basketball to win a championship. Those guys were so close last year, so they're hungry this year to get back. I want to help them. I want to be the guy that takes them over the top.
We don't have any selfish players on the team. That's the thing: I think everybody expects us to play selfish, but guys want to go out there and win and just play the right way. That's what they've been doing. It's on me to come in there and adapt to what they've been doing. It's going to take me some time, but I'm going to get used to it pretty quick.
That's certainly a scary thought for the rest of the NBA. After all, who do teams focus on slowing down? If you press the perimeter and pressure jump-shooters like Curry and Klay Thompson, Durant will have all the room in the world to slash to the basket. If you try to keep the ball away from Durant, however, Curry and Thompson should be able to find open shots all over the perimeter.
That doesn't even include the various ways Draymond Green can score—or the possibility of Durant and Curry in the pick-and-roll, pressuring teams into the impossible decision of either switching and leaving Durant with a mismatch or giving Curry the space to take an open shot.
Once Durant and the Warriors figure out how they best operate with one another—and given how unselfishly they play, that won't take long, as Durant noted—they may be unstoppable on the offensive end.
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