With a litany of media and team officials present at the Golden State Warriors' practice facility, Kevin Durant was welcomed to his new home on Thursday, thus making his two-year, $54.3 million deal with a player option for that second-year official.
Sitting in between Warriors head coach -- and 2015-16 Coach of the Year -- Steve Kerr and general manager Bob Myers, Durant expressed comfort with his decision to sign with Golden State.
The 27-year-old left the Oklahoma City Thunder after spending his first nine seasons with the organization. He admitted that it wasn't an easy decision but was made easier after he met with the team during the free agency moratorium period.
Article continues below
"When I met these guys, I felt as comfortable as I've ever felt. It was organic. It was authentic. It was real. It was feelings I couldn't ignore," Durant said at his introductory press conference. "I feel great. I feel excited about this opportunity."
Durant was undoubtedly the most sought-after free agent on the market this offseason. The former NBA Most Valuable Player (2014) was reportedly courted by the San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers, Thunder, and Warriors.
During the press conference, Durant said the decision took a toll on him and was finalized on Monday morning. Durant woke up his team of people at 7 a.m. on that July 4 morning to tell them "I want to play for the Warriors."
Shortly thereafter, he made the announcement with a lengthy article on The Players' Tribune. But, notifying his now-former team of the decision was the hardest part of the process.
"That call to Oklahoma City was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life," Durant said.
"Tears were shed, but like I said this is a new journey for me, testing the unknown, I trusted my gut, I trusted my instincts. It’s an unpopular decision, but I can live with it."
Following a 73-win regular season, the best in NBA history, the Warriors add a seven-time all-star, former Rookie of the Year, an Olympic gold medalist to the mix. With reigning and back-to-back MVP Stephen Curry and sharpshooting Klay Thompson the incumbents, Durant strengthens an already potent perimeter team.
Kerr joked that Durant will likely start for the Warriors before acknowledging the impact he will have on his new team.
"To add another guy who is so talented ... He's not just a shooter, not just a defender," Kerr said. "He's a basketball player. The combination of all these guys together should be a lot of fun to watch."
Last season, Durant averaged 28.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 5.0 assists in 72 games for the Thunder. After missing 55 games due to various foot/ankle injuries the prior season, Durant resumed his MVP-caliber production. A four-time scoring champion, Durant has never averaged less than 20 points per game in a season.
With Oklahoma City, Durant made four Western Conference Finals appearances and one NBA Finals appearance (2012) -- losing to the Heat in five games. The Warriors, fresh off their second consecutive NBA Finals appearance, have significantly improved their roster.
"We try to get better every day we wake up," Warriors GM Bob Myers said. "You never expect to get this much better. We love people that love to play basketball. We love high-character people. You can't find a better embodiment of that than the guy sitting next to me. We all can dream. Most of the times the dreams don't come true."
Durant, showing his comfort in Oakland right away, joking about one of his new teammates. When Thompson texted Durant about him joining the Warriors, Durant said he wasn't aware that Thompson owned a cell phone.
Russell Westbrook, Durant's now-former teammate, "respected" his decision to leave. In breaking the news to Westbrook, Durant said it wasn't easy but their friendship remains strong.
"The relationship is great. We had great years man," Durant said.
"It's something that you'll never take away from us. But like I said, I wanted a new chapter in my life. I felt it was time for it."
Durant was scolded for his decision to leave OKC and join the team that eliminated them from the conference finals last season. Some labeled him a quitter and most as a player looking for a shortcut to a championship ring.
"We live in a comic book world where either you're a villain or a superhero if you're in this position," Durant said of the free agency process. "I can't control that."
Durant added that he wants to remain with Golden State long term and avoid another stint in free agency. However, Durant maintained his decision was made because he feels it's best for his career.
"Nothing in this league is easy. There are no shortcuts," Durant said.