Golden State Warriors' Dreams Get Real as Kevin Durant Lights Up Oracle ArenaJuly 27, 2016
OAKLAND, Calif. — The dreamlike idea of Kevin Durant playing for the Golden State Warriors got real Tuesday, when Team USA faced China in a pre-Olympic exhibition at Oracle Arena.
Based on the reaction of thousands of Warriors fans in attendance, it was one of those rare awakenings better than the reverie itself. Because there he was—wearing USA kit, sure, but in Golden State's home arena for the first time, technically, as a Warrior.
Nearly two hours before tipoff, Durant took the floor to warm up in an empty, silent gym.
When the doors opened and fans began streaming in a few minutes later, he was hardly alone. And it was far from silent.
The enthusiasm was overwhelming. Fans clad in Warriors paraphernalia streamed down in twos and threes from the upper level. Each small group observed some version of the same ritual: Stop atop the arena stairs above the court, watch Durant working through drills with USA assistant coach Monty Williams, exchange wide-eyed looks of disbelief and then sprint down as close to the floor as possible, ignoring the ushers' exasperated shouts of "Don't run!"
As Durant worked through the remainder of his warm-up, the courtside clamor grew, and the volume of the growing mass' shouting intensified. "Welcome home!" and "KD!" (shouted as though discovering buried treasure) were the favorites.
Durant's official introduction produced a deafening roar lasting longer than that of any other player.
"I'm not going to lie," Durant said. "It felt a little weird for these fans to be cheering me on like that...but it was cool, man. It was different. The vibes were great. Everybody showed me major love."
Any doubt about the partisanship of the blue-and-gold-clad spectators was put to rest when Klay Thompson and Draymond Green soaked up similar receptions...and when Kyrie Irving, who plunged the dagger into the Warriors with an NBA Finals-clinching three-pointer a few weeks ago, endured a few jeers.
This was a Warriors crowd, and in addition to the realizations and ovations and dreams-coming-true stuff, it was there to see a game—which Team USA handily won by a margin of 107-57.
Durant started alongside Green and Thompson, and he promptly scored on Team USA's first two possessions, drilling a triple from the left wing and then flushing a breakaway right-handed dunk.
"Kyrie, being such a great guy, told me before the tip that he was throwing it to me no matter what," Durant said. "And I knew I was going to pull the first shot since, like, yesterday. Luckily, it went in."
He had the team's first 10 points overall, finishing with 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting in 19 minutes. Carmelo Anthony caught fire in the third, scoring 16 of his 20 points. DeMarcus Cousins led all scorers with 21.
The U.S. overwhelmed China early with a full-court press. Runouts and open looks against a beleaguered Chinese squad pushed the lead to double digits quickly. There was no letup after the Warriors trio left the floor midway through the first quarter, which was no surprise when the second unit consisted of Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Anthony and DeAndre Jordan.
That's a solid bench mob.
At the end of the first quarter, Team USA had more than doubled up China, 31-15. The margin only expanded from there.
There wasn't much chance to see Durant's interplay with his new teammates. He played just over five minutes with Thompson and Green in the first quarter, and the trio didn't share the court again until the 8:15 mark of the fourth quarter.
At which point a thunderous "Warriors" chant erupted. It was 86-43 at that point.
Thompson exited 75 seconds later, just after Durant set him up for an and-1 layup on the break.
"I think I figured Klay out," Durant said. "I think I figured out his movements, how he is. And Draymond...different guy. I've been around guys like that before, and we've been tight. Guys like that, we've been tight."
Maybe it's not a bad thing that Warriors fans didn't get to see extended chemistry-building minutes.
Better to preserve an element of mystery, perhaps. After finally getting a taste of Durant on the floor in Oakland, there's still something to anticipate: seeing KD, Thompson and Green with Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala instead of Cousins and Irving (the other two U.S. starters). Both Curry and Iguodala sat courtside. So close, yet so far.
Former Warriors forward Harrison Barnes missed his first two shots but earned a cheer when he threw down a dunk in the second quarter. He was warmly received throughout, which was to be expected. He got a max deal, and Golden State got a former MVP to replace him. There's no room for ill will on either side there.
But back to Durant since that's really what Tuesday was all about.
The news of his signing in early July was a shock, but it was only news. The colossal "Welcome to Dubnation, KD" banner draped on Oracle's south-facing facade that same day (it's still hanging there now) didn't quite drive it home either. The introductory press conference days later was an odd celebration for something that wouldn't really manifest itself for months. It lacked emotional immediacy.
Tuesday's game didn't.
KD tried to downplay the feelings, saying: "I didn't lose sleep over today. I just wanted to be myself, do my normal routine."
Green, of course, revealed the truth, pulling back the curtain on the pregame locker room scene: "He kept saying, 'Man, I got the jitters, like first-game-type jitters.'"
The real genesis of Durant-as-Warrior won't happen until the fall, when Golden State begins one of the most anticipated regular seasons in league history. At the risk of assigning too much cosmic value to the whole affair, the best way to think of what happened Tuesday might be to term it the Big Bang. For Golden State fans, nothing became something. The incomprehensible took shape. It was there, on the court, in front of them.
For the first time, Durant played basketball in his new home arena for his new home fans. He made the dream real.
"It's going to be sweet, man," Thompson said. "I can't wait."
Neither can anyone else.
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Quotes obtained firsthand.