Warriors on facing Durant again: ‘We all love each other and respect each other’

NEW YORK CITY — Draymond Green wasn’t having any of it.

“Is that the headline? Tuesday’s the first day we see KD in a normal setting? I’m looking forward to seeing my brother.”

He got up from behind the microphone and left it at that, summarizing well the Warriors’ feelings — at least publicly — about facing off against their former teammate, who helped bring two championships and the greatest basketball of the 21st century to the Bay Area before their fleeting run ended in tatters, physically and emotionally.

Kevin Durant’s Achilles tendon gave out in Game 5 of the NBA Finals and the Warriors’ season came crashing down along with their dynasty, or at least one stage of it. Two seasons later, it appears Green and Stephen Curry and company may have reignited another run of championship aspirations, but Durant and his new superteam with James Harden and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn will have their say. (Well, maybe not Irving, who still isn’t playing over New York City’s vaccine mandate.)

On Tuesday, the Warriors face off against their former star for the third time since their divorce. It will be their first time in front of a live audience because of pandemic restrictions last season, Durant’s first back on the court after undergoing surgery to repair his Achilles.

“A lot of time has passed,” coach Steve Kerr said Monday, insisting emotions weren’t running high ahead of the reunion. “The one emotion that will always be there is when you win championships together, that supersedes everything. … Going through all the turbulence that comes with that, obviously the massive injury at the end of all that. You factor it all in and what you end up thinking about is what you accomplished together.”

Whatever bait there was, the Warriors weren’t taking it.

“I think it comes through a lot of noise from the machine that’s professional sports,” said Andre Iguodala, referring to the reported locker room tension with Durant. “For us, it’s more fun competing as brothers. Those are the games I enjoy the most. Somebody you have some great memories with, great practices with. I’m looking forward to just competing with him.”

Kerr said the Warriors “cut through the BS” with Durant and that “we all love each other and respect each other.”

Green and Durant, whose turbulent relationship blew up in a much-publicized locker room argument, reconciled any differences the two had on Green’s YouTube show “Chips” over the summer. Green said Warriors management “(expletive)-ed it up,” and Durant concurred.

The two players teamed up this summer to win gold at the Tokyo Olympics with Kerr as an assistant coach, an experience that acted as an important bonding episode, according to Kerr.

“I don’t think (there was) as much (BS) as everyone wants to talk about,” Kerr said. “We were the team in the spotlight for three years. Every team that goes through kind of a run where you’re in the Finals year after year, every team has stress. We happened to be playing during the time of social media where every single thing is examined under a microscope. By the third year, it’s kind of where things get to. You’re exhausted from trying to stay on top and stuff happens. There’s a reason these things don’t last forever.”

Kerr, a member of the Bulls dynasty in the ’90s before coaching Golden State’s two decades later, said the era of social media, maximum contracts and player empowerment has made it harder than ever to keep a championship team together.

It’s no secret Durant often fell victim to his anonymous critics; online sleuths discovered his “burner” Twitter account during his tenure with Golden State. However, he is hardly the only player affected by the strange new pressures of the modern game.

“It’s tougher on a lot of levels to keep a team together,” Kerr said. “Shorter contracts. Players are much more likely to exercise their freedom and move on to a new team.

“I think it’s never been more difficult to be a professional athlete than right now,” he continued. “Everyone of these guys is criticized and judged, not on a daily basis, not on an hourly basis — on a minute-ly basis. And it’s right there at their fingertips through their phones. That makes life a lot more difficult. …

“These same principles apply to everybody. We live in this strange world now where we all like to criticize ourselves behind the secrecy of our keyboard. A lot of people say things that they would never say to someone face to face. So you imagine these players reading that stuff as human beings, it’s brutal.”

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