Scrutiny begins for Durant as Warriors open camp

Coalescing with Curry, Green, Thompson part of process

Scott Howard-Cooper

OAKLAND — Sept. 26, Monday, was the same as July 7, the day Kevin Durant was officially introduced as a Warrior. He was in the practice facility, but not to practice. He put on a No. 35 Golden State game jersey, only not to play. Another day of ceremony.

Except that it wasn’t. Durant came to media day to begin the new season, just as he arrived at the massive media gathering some 2 ½ months earlier to begin the new life, and it was different. Good different.

“I wouldn’t say strange is the word, but it’s new and fresh,” Durant explained. “I’m looking forward to it. I just got super excited as I was walking in here and get to play here and play for this great organization and play with these great players. I’m excited.”

Also real. New and fresh and real. Teammates were at various stations around the court, also in uniform, and his first Warriors practice was a day away.

KD as a Warrior was here.

“Life will change just because I’m in a different city,” he said, running through the emotions of starting a season with someone other than the Thunder/SuperSonics for the first time in a professional career that started in 2007. “I think that’s probably the only thing. My game, we’ll see. I’m relying on coach (Steve) Kerr and seeing how he can put me in great positions to help the team be successful. That’s the most important thing for me. I’m going to be who I am every single day. I’m going to approach the game like I’ve always done it. Nothing’s changed on my end except for my jersey.”

He slipped in that last part like it was no big deal, when, obviously, it was. Durant’s free-agent move from Oklahoma City to Oakland was nothing less than seismic on the NBA landscape, enough to instantly move the Thunder into the unusual role of underdog, to make it easier for a lot of people to root against the Warriors and to transform one of the league’s likeable players into a villain to some.

Everything has changed, actually. Starting right now, with the energy surge as he walked in the building Monday and the start of practice Tuesday.

“It’s become more and more realistic as each day goes by,” he said. “Now that I’m here, my jersey on, media day, seeing all my teammates, it’s real. I’m excited. It’s been a fun, fun summer. A different summer than I’ve ever experienced, but for the most part it was great to go through. I’m excited, I’m ready to go, I’m ready to play. I’ve just been anxious to play.

“I always played with emotion, I always played with passion. But my thing is just playing for myself. I don’t want to go out there and play upset at everybody else. That takes me out of who I am. I just want to play my game, enjoy the game of basketball like I’ve always been enjoying it, and everything else will work itself out.”

It will be a process for all the Warriors, not just the new guy under the microscope. They already have the reigning back-to-back MVP, Stephen Curry, after all, plus two other All-Stars, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Everyone must sacrifice shots. Kerr must put the jigsaw puzzle back together to develop an offense that runs just as smooth as before, only with a new lineup.

That basically starting right now, too, with only days before the start of practice and the first exhibition game, Saturday against the Raptors in Vancouver, Canada (7:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV). The plan is to play the veterans, even though Kerr said he will be cutting their minutes early, and then comes a game against Clippers on Tuesday in Oakland and the Kings on Thursday nearby in San Jose. Three games in six days will help Kerr sort through the many lineup options, but really settling on a rotation may go beyond the Oct. 25 opener against the Spurs.

The Warriors are a work in progress. But they are here, in attendance, in uniform, and super excited. It’s real.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail himhere and follow him on Twitter.

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