OAKLAND — Kevin Durant’s introductory press conference was an unprecedented spectacle. Light music played in the background, hundreds of corporate guests milled around the practice courts. The reception was fit for royalty.
It was after the pomp and circumstance when fascinating new details emerged about the Warriors’ pursuit of the seven-time All-Star.
Durant heard rumors Golden State was sending a large contingent, but was floored when he opened the door in The Hamptons. There stood Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, all grinning from ear to ear.
“They all walked in and it looked like they were holding hands,” Durant cracked. “I could tell they enjoyed being around each other.”
After spending several days coming up with a multimedia presentation for their Friday meeting, owner Joe Lacob revealed the Warriors ditched video clips and nearly the entire script shortly after the meeting began.
“We never even got to show it,” Lacob said. “We had an order to the presentation but we didn’t really follow it.”
While there was a positive vibe encompassing the room, there were tough questions to be asked. This was a basketball decision, but it mixed with business. Bob Myers, a gifted people person, kicked his senses into high alert.
“We didn’t even get to exchange any pleasantries,” the GM recalled, “before Kevin’s agent said, ‘Why do you guys want Kevin? And I want to hear from the players.’ And he looked right at Steph.”
Myers clenched his jaw a bit, wondering how his easy-going MVP would respond. Like it was a three-pointer at the top of the key, Curry quickly fired off his answer.
“I’m here,” Curry told Durant. “I want you.”
Lacob, Myers and Steve Kerr quickly understood this was no longer their meeting. The trio called an audible, realizing their greatest bargaining chip in landing Durant rested with their very own players. Salesmanship was tossed to the side for natural, organic basketball talk. Iguodala, in particular, was the one genuinely speaking from the heart. Above any other messaging, winning and togetherness were emphasized the most.
“I felt as comfortable as I’ve ever felt,” Durant said on stage during his press conference. “It was authentic, it was real, and it was feelings I couldn’t ignore.”
As ‘Kumbaya My Lord’ as the meeting is being portrayed, there were tense moments. Durant downplayed it on Thursday, but Lacob said KD wondered how everyone else felt about becoming a villainous team.
“So? What else is new?” the team owner piped in. “We tried to tell him, you are going to have that no matter where you go. You are Kevin Durant. We have that as well. Together, we’ll have more of that. But, so what?”
The Warriors won over Kevin Durant exactly the same way they play basketball. The interactions in the Hamptons were organically raw and seamless. Kerr’s offense doesn’t have many set plays and once this meeting began, neither did the Warriors’ recruiting pitch. Nearly every trip up and down the court, the Warriors aren’t exactly sure who is going to score the basketball — and they don’t care. The meeting went the same way, but instead of basketball, real personalities were emblazoned on their sleeves, each player grabbing the wheel, explaining why KD should join forces. And as he processed everything thrown his way, the authenticity was evident to Durant.
“Life goes on, and I’ve got a short amount of time left to play basketball,” Durant recalled thinking at the time. “I just want to enjoy every single day of it.”
The Warriors did wind up showing Durant a few pictures of the new arena in San Francisco — Lacob revealed that they’ll break ground at the end of 2016, pending a lawsuit — and pushed the Silicon Valley angle toward his agent Rich Kleiman, his manager Charlie Bell and his father Wayne Pratt. The city was hardly a focal point.
Curry and Durant shared a bro-hug and the rest of the Warriors left the Hamptons and went their own separate ways. Lacob recalled feeling enamored with Durant and the chemistry with the players. But the owner felt much stronger about how the meeting went than the GM did.
“I didn’t think this was going to happen until the moment he called,” Myers said.
The days passed slowly, but the Warriors did follow up — heavily. Curry’s text message to Durant was documented and the two MVPs were texting again Thursday before the press conference. Green did some solo persuasion on his own. The Warriors watched reports of Tom Brady flanking Danny Ainge and the Celtics representatives, causing Myers to joke the Warriors should’ve brought Joe Montana.
The now-famous Jerry West phone call was an intentional card Myers and Lacob planned to play all along. West asked to speak to Durant on Saturday, to keep the Warriors fresh in KD’s mind. Lacob says the conversation was hyped up more than it should have been, and Durant agreed — but the team left no stones unturned.
On the morning of the Fourth of July, Lacob was tucked away in Montana, at his summer home. His bags were packed and a private jet had been lined up just in case Durant wasn’t ready to make the decision.
“We thought we might have to go back and close the deal,” Lacob said. “We just didn’t know.”
Durant called Myers first to inform him of the decision while the GM’s heart pounded on the other end of the line.
“I just want to tell you you guys are a first-class organization,” Durant told Myers, “and I appreciate who you guys are, but…”
“He said the word ‘but’ and I thought, ‘Aww, man…but is not a good word,” Myers said.
“But…,” Durant said, “I’m coming to the Warriors.”
Myers was in a state of disbelief and immediately called his boss. Lacob was standing on his outdoor patio, gazing down at a lake near his property, scrolling through his phone. All of a sudden it started buzzing.
“Bob called me he was screaming a little bit on the phone. I was very, very excited,” Lacob said. “But I gotta tell you within minutes, I was like, ‘What we got to do now?’ ‘How are we going to get the roster filled out? That’s the whole thing. We’re always trying to make things better.”
Lacob repeatedly said Myers is the main one to credit for playing point guard, the maestro, the heart and soul of the Warriors’ pursuit for Durant. Myers was the one who resisted giving Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli contract extensions earlier in the season, a natural reaction for a front office to make after winning a championship.
As masterfully as he put this thing together, the GM refused to take credit. And his reasoning is telling.
“Kevin came because of our players,” Myers said. “I know he loves the city. I’m sure he’s respectful of what we’ve done. But when you make a decision like this, I think as a player (and I’m not a player), I think you want to make a decision with who you are going to be playing with. So if anybody deserves credit for this outcome, it’s our players.
“They were good in the meeting. They didn’t say anything crazy. They were who they are. And if you are a good person, and a good player, and you just show someone that, that can be very powerful”
The Warriors just kept it real.
Two hours after the press conference ended, the red carpets had been rolled up and the noise had died down. Durant had changed out of his navy suit and into black sweat pants, a dark gray T-shirt and backwards green hat. He was hoisting up three-point shots.
The Warriors made Kevin Durant comfortable. Golden State is Kevin Durant’s new home.