OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — As much as Kevin Durant might try to downplay the drama, when he steps on the court against his former Oklahoma City team for the first time Thursday night emotions will be flying high for both sides.
And there's more: Durant's new Golden State team rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals just more than five months ago.
“I wouldn't say weird. I'll just be locked in to follow the game plan, and just playing,” Durant said. “But once you step on the court and see the different jersey I'm sure it will hit me.”
Durant vs. old buddy Russell Westbrook, who opted to stay put and sign an extension. Oh yes, this game has been circled on many an NBA schedule for months. At least since Durant departed as a free agent to join the Warriors in July.
New teammate and fellow Olympian Draymond Green knows Durant will be extra motivated for this matchup.
“I think it will be a lot of emotions. They're going to want to beat him really bad, he's going to want to beat them really bad,” Green said. “In turn, we're going to want to beat them really bad because we want him to beat them really bad. So I think it will be a fun game to play in. It's always a high intensity game against them and I expect nothing less.”
Yes, this could be a tense reunion when the tip goes up. Westbrook went into Wednesday night's game against the Clippers in Los Angeles leading the league in scoring averaging 38.7 points, while Durant was sixth at 28.5.
Golden State had Wednesday off from practice following a 127-104 win Tuesday night at Portland.
“I'm going to enjoy myself and get away from basketball,” Durant said. “At shootaround we'll think about going over the game plan and stuff and how we're going to try to win the game.”
Durant has scored 20 or more points in 68 straight regular-season games for the longest such streak since Michael Jordan did so in 69 consecutive outings in 1990-91.
Coach Steve Kerr has insisted all along his team will need time to come together and really click. Durant has made strides learning the system each day, leading the Warriors in scoring slightly ahead of two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry.
“KD is meshing with us beautifully. He fits right into what we want to do. He's a playmaker. He's perfect for what we already do,” Kerr said.
“I'm sure he's going to be excited. Every player is excited when he plays against his former team. I used to get excited all the time because I played on so many teams. It's a little different for Kevin because he's a superstar and the spotlight is on him, everybody's going to be asking him questions, the TV cameras will be on him and Russ. I'm sure it will be nice for both players to get this one behind them so they can go on with their season.”
For Golden State, winning at Oracle Arena would mean a lot regardless of the opponent. The Warriors took a 29-point beating at the hands of San Antonio in their season opener Oct. 25 — prompting fans to flood the exits with more than five minutes remaining in the rare blowout loss by the home team — but have a three-game winning streak since.
“I've played Oklahoma City plenty of times so I know what it's like. He doesn't,” Curry said of Durant. “We haven't won at home in a while, so that's all I'm really worried about. Just getting a home win.”