Kendrick Perkins on Kevin Durant: ‘Finally, he got his own team’
The former teammate of KD and Kyrie Irving talks about the new-look Nets
After talking to his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate on the phone on Sunday, Kendrick Perkins is confident Kevin Durant made the right decision to leave the Golden State Warriors.
“They’re going to miss him when he’s gone,” Perkins told The Undefeated. “I talked to KD and he is happy.”
Durant turned down a potential five-year, $221 million deal with the Warriors to ink a four-year, $164 million pact with the Nets.
Yes, the Nets.
The Warriors have been to the NBA Finals in each of the past five seasons, winning three times. The Nets, meanwhile, have never won an NBA championship while forever playing in the shadow of the neighboring New York Knicks.
But Durant is joining forces with two of his buddies, All-Star Kyrie Irving and center DeAndre Jordan, in hopes of changing history in Brooklyn, New York.
“I love it for KD,” said Perkins, who also played with Irving on the Cleveland Cavaliers. “It’s great for KD and Kyrie to be in the New York area. This is a golden opportunity for KD, and I think he will do great.”
While Perkins wouldn’t go into detail, he believes Durant had “one foot out the door” this past season because the Warriors made him feel unappreciated. A source close to Durant also told The Undefeated there were several things that took place over the past year that caused the star to leave.
While Durant’s shocking move to join the Warriors in 2016 quickly paid dividends for him — two straight championships and two Finals MVP awards — there was always the sense that the 10-time All-Star felt like a distant second fiddle to Stephen Curry. The love for Curry in the Bay Area certainly was understandable as he was a homegrown draft pick in 2009 and the face of the franchise. But perhaps it would have helped the Warriors’ cause if their fans showed more love and appreciation for Durant’s elite achievements. Instead, there was a perception that the world’s most talented basketball player just jumped onto the championship bandwagon.
Curry regularly received MVP chants from the Warriors crowd when he shot free throws, while that didn’t become commonplace for Durant until this past postseason. And while Curry and Durant always had strong respect for each other, some fans were unhappy a deserving Durant won Finals MVP twice over the more popular Curry.
Fuel was added to that fire when Warriors general manager Bob Myers made a poor joke about Durant’s pending free agency situation at the 2018 NBA championship parade ceremony:
“Last year, you told Steph he could have whatever contract he wants, too,” Warriors play-by-play announcer Bob Fitzgerald said to Myers.
“That was different,” Myers replied. “[Curry’s] been here since the way before days. … He earned it.”
Durant let out an awkward laugh.
That was the only apparent misstep by Myers in what was otherwise a strong relationship with Durant.
But then there was the in-game verbal sparring between Durant and Draymond Green at the end of regulation during a 121-116 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 12. The yelling started after Green took the ball up the court in the final seconds of regulation and didn’t get the ball to an open and visibly frustrated Durant. Reports would later surface that Green told Durant that they had won a championship without him previously and they didn’t need him. Green also called him out with an expletive. Green was suspended one game by the Warriors for his actions.
Durant’s nightmarish season with the Warriors ended, of course, with two unforgettable injuries in the playoffs. He strained his right calf against the Houston Rockets, and after returning in the Finals, he ruptured his right Achilles tendon in Game 5 against the Toronto Raptors. The last moment for Durant in a Warriors uniform was him being helped off the floor to the locker room in Toronto. The Warriors would end up losing the Finals in Game 6, the last game at Oracle Arena.
When asked about all of the negative things that transpired with Durant and the Warriors over the past year, a source close to Durant said: “All that showed a lack of respect for one of the greatest players to put that uniform on and the fact that he took all that abuse and still put his career on the line to help them win.”
Durant had finally become a hero in the Bay Area after putting his career and $200 million-plus on the line playing with an injury. The Warriors celebrated him with rally towels during Game 6 with his initials “KD” on it. But perhaps if he had been treated like a hero every second he was playing for the franchise, he would have rallied around the idea of staying longer.
“It was time for him to leave Golden State,” Perkins said. “They were taking him for granted.”
Finding championship success in Brooklyn is far from guaranteed for Durant, but the Nets are showing they are committed to him, signing him to a max contract despite the fact that his Achilles injury will likely cause him to miss all of next season. That is a major commitment that likely made Durant feel beloved, especially after the Knicks reportedly refused to make a similar offer due to the injury.
Moreover, he’ll get to team up with Irving, who has Hall of Fame talent and won a title with the Cavaliers in 2016.
Although Irving often butted heads with LeBron James in Cleveland and couldn’t find a common bond with his Boston Celtics teammates during a disappointing campaign last season, Perkins thinks things will be different with Durant in Brooklyn.
“I have no doubt they will co-exist,” said Perkins, who saw firsthand how Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen put their egos aside in Boston to win a title in 2008. “Kyrie needs to be able to play freely and just be himself and let KD be the leader and the playmaker. I think Kyrie will fall in line. After he left Cleveland he called ‘Bron to apologize to him. He realized that he is not that dude and that he needs to play alongside a guy like KD.”
It will be interesting to see how Durant reflects on his time with the Warriors when he holds his introductory news conference with the Nets. Time will tell if leaving the Warriors’ dynasty was the right decision for Durant. For now, Perkins is optimistic his former teammate will prove any doubters wrong.
“KD will do great,” Perkins said. “Finally, he got his own team.”