Kurtenbach: The time is right for Kevin Durant and the Warriors to reunite

Who helped whom?

If you listen to the toxic discourse surrounding NBA basketball, you’d be led to believe that the Golden State Warriors were some scrub team saved by Kevin Durant joining them for the 2016-17 season.

It sure seems that Durant needed the Warriors more than the Warriors needed him.

On Sunday night, Durant’s latest team, the Suns, were swept off their home floor by the upstart Timberwolves, who won their first playoff series in 20 years. Phoenix had gone all-in on this season, putting together a “Big Three” with Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal.

The Suns’ issue? They overlooked that basketball is played with five people at a time.

Also, that whole defense thing is pretty important.

Going all-in in the Valley of the Sun resulted in a No. 6 seed and zero playoff wins.

And things don’t look like they will improve much going forward.

With a massive tax bill and having mortgaged all their draft picks for the next six years, the Suns—like the Warriors—find themselves in basketball purgatory.

Yes, big questions are being asked in Phoenix, and big changes might be coming this offseason. Golden State just had a two-week head start on the same process.

At least the Warriors have won not just a playoff series but a title since Durant’s exit from the Bay. For those keeping count, the Warriors have five playoff series wins to Durant’s two since the 2021 season.

The time is right for Durant to return to the Warriors.

It’s a shame it won’t happen.

To start, I don’t think Durant — who bailed on Brooklyn 15 months ago — will be traded again this offseason. I expect the Suns to keep digging the hole they’re in. Best of luck with that.

Even if that prediction is wrong, I can assure you he won’t become a Warrior again. There’s no world where Jonathan Kuminga, Andrew Wiggins, and all the draft picks in the world land you Durant, even as he goes into an age-36 season.

And with both the Suns and Warriors looking down the barrel at futures of mediocrity at best and with a reunion far-fetched at best, I think it’s fair to look back on the Durant – Dubs marriage and re-litigate the divorce terms.

You’ll have to forgive me for living in the past — the future is too bleak. I’m also (idiotically) following the lead of Inside The NBA and the social media space.

So again, I ask: who received the most benefit in the Warriors-Durant pairing?

Adding a wing who can score at all three levels like few others in league history and defend at a high level, too, turned the juggernaut Warriors — who had won 73 regular-season games the season before — into back-to-back surefire champions, league-runners, and arguably a team above reproach in NBA history.

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So much is still made of the alleged texts Draymond Green made to Durant following the Warriors’ loss in the 2016 NBA Finals. The hysterical tall tale (no, Green wasn’t crying on Facetime from the Oracle Arena parking lot) set the narrative for the relationship.

But clearly, there’s something more to winning than simply assembling superstar players and rolling a ball onto the court. Yes, even if you have a preponderance of talent like the Durant-era Warriors.

Durant’s Brooklyn Nets had a Big Three with James Harden and Kyrie Irving. That team won a single playoff series and was swept out in the first round in 2022.

The Suns tried the same formula, to the same result — one playoff series win and now a sweep.

The 2017 Warriors might be the greatest basketball team ever assembled, but the 2018 edition went seven games with the Rockets in the Western Conference Finals, and the 2019 team lost the NBA Finals (sans-Durant) in six games.

While most of the adversity the Durant-era Warriors faced was in-house and media-driven, they handled the punches from competitors well. Those teams had more grit and scrap than they’ll ever receive credit for.

Did Durant bring that grit to the Warriors, or did the Warriors give it to Durant?

The answer seems pretty obvious today.

In an ideal world, the two parties — who need each other now more than ever — would find a way to get back together and take one last swing at greatness.

It’s clear now that Durant needed what the Warriors provided — their institutional leadership and on-court systems, the Steph Curry of it all — and there’s no question that these days, the Warriors desperately need a game-changing wing like Durant.

It’s a shame we don’t live in anything close to an ideal world.

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