Basketball - INACTIVE

It took work, but here’s how Kevin Durant, Steph Curry learned to share the limelight

The relationship between Golden State Warriors stars Kevin Durant and Steph Curry has taken work. Nobody said sacrifice was easy.
The relationship between Golden State Warriors stars Kevin Durant and Steph Curry has taken work. Nobody said sacrifice was easy. AP

Stephen Curry took a quick deep breath. He was about to yell back at Kevin Durant, but he caught himself.

Durant took out his mouthpiece and screamed at Curry.

“STEPH!” Durant yelled, then paused with a death stare, waiting for Curry to turn around. “GET OUT!”

Curry swallowed his next words, turned away from Durant and walked towards the bench shaking his head. Curry kicked a chair when he got to the bench, causing the seat cushion to fly.

It may have looked like trouble in paradise. Really, it was a sign of progress, an illustration of how their relationship has grown.

Ten months since Durant made his choice to leave Oklahoma City, he is already so ingratiated into the Warriors’ fold that he’s freely, publicly yelling at the franchise cornerstone. The rapport is built between the two to the point where such heated exchanges don’t stick.

It wouldn’t be real if they couldn’t be real with each other. That’s how I know their relationship is good. Because it is genuine. -

Draymond Green, on Kevin Durant and Steph Curry

We’ve seen it with Durant and Draymond Green, the two players who hit it off faster than any. It took time for Curry and Durant to get here, to get past the niceties. But they both were able to get here because they both have sacrificed for this super team. They’ve got skin in the game.

Durant said before joining the Warriors, he had to hear from Curry. He had to know the former Davidson star Curry really wanted him in the core. He didn’t want the truth to come out later.

Curry convinced Durant by showing up to the Hamptons to recruit him, and by poignant text messages about his willingness to share the kingdom he built for the sake of the kingdom’s sustained dominance.

If the Warriors win the title, the happy ending will have been earned. The relationship between the two MVPs has taken work. So much potential is there for resentment and enmity.

Nobody said sacrifice was easy. Perhaps these two MVPs are the only ones who could pull this off.

Durant Redemption campaign

“They have a great relationship,” Warriors assistant coach Bruce Fraser said after leading a shooting drill with both of them on Curry’s favorite court in the Warriors practice facility. “They are two guys who have seen a lot and don’t care about all that other stuff. They just want to win.”

Durant averaged a career-low 16.5 shots per game. It was the most efficient season of his career, but the green light he had always enjoyed was yellow pretty often.

For four months he was called every synonym of soft possible for leaving Oklahoma City and joining the team that beat Oklahoma City. Then when he could finally do something about it, he did. He averaged 27.1 points on 57 percent shooting the first month of the season.

At team gatherings, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry are almost inseparable and riotous in their fun.

His hot start was punctuated by 36 points and 15 rebounds at Cleveland on Christmas Day, redeeming his name in a showdown against LeBron James.

That hot start cost Curry. He got lost in the Durant Redemption campaign. Curry was on a redemption tour of his own. After a poor showing in the NBA Finals, he had something to prove. And his play the first two months of the season was validating the criticism about him.

It wasn’t easy to hear it was Durant’s team now after all the work he’d done to build it. Curry has an ego like all of them. But his sacrifice was in swallowing it, even as members of his own camp mumbled about how Curry was being slighted.

Then it was Durant with the poignant message to Curry. He told Curry to play his game. He promised Curry he would be fine bending his considerable talent’s around Curry’s style of play. The dialogue on how to make this work began.

Fun times behind the scenes

And between their talks are lots and lots of laughs. At team gatherings, they are almost inseparable and riotous in their fun. Anyone who sees them together, especially with Green in the mix, can see why they work – because they both value the camaraderie and brotherhood. They love the fun times behind the scenes even more than the glory in front of the cameras.

It’s the ability to share jokes and real talk, praise and constructive criticism, that gives their bond some real depth.

“It wouldn’t be real if they couldn’t be real with each other,” Green said. “That’s how I know their relationship is good. Because it is genuine.”

Warriors Jazz Basketball (1)
It’s the ability to share jokes and real talk, praise and constructive criticism, that gives the bond between Golden State Warriors stars Kevin Durant, left, and Stephen Curry some real depth. Rick Bowmer AP

Curry went on a tear when he started playing “his game.” In January, a more-aggressive Curry averaged 27.8 points and 6.9 assists in January. And Durant averaged 27.4 points on 56.5 percent. They had worked themselves into a harmony.

But it tailed off for Durant. In February, he found himself slumping. Then Feb. 28, he suffered a knee injury that knocked him out for all but two games the rest of the season. And then he had sit and watch himself by marginalized by the national dialogue and public opinion.

Curry flourished as the Warriors ran off a 14-game win streak. And suddenly, Durant – who was anointed the Warriors’ best player earlier in the season – was suddenly a hindrance for Curry. And you know he heard it, and it bothered him, because he addressed it after his first game back April 10. “I guess I don’t make him worse after all,” Durant said to the media postgame.

Working out the kinks

Through all of this, Curry and Durant have been talking and texting. They have been working out the kinks, encouraging one another, holding each other accountable. They are both invested. They have both sacrificed. They are both mature enough to say what they need to, but humble enough to accept what is being said.

“I knew what I was getting into,” Durant said. “I’ve seen so much in this league. I know how long a season is, how the ebb and flows work. You get to a point where you just want to win, man. That’s all it’s about.”

Curry took a quick deep breath. He was about to reply to Kevin Durant, but he caught himself.

Durant had just emerged from the shower, two blue towels covering most of his lankiness. The Warriors had just completed the sweep of the Utah Jazz. Walking past his point guard, he offered Curry some advice.

“Next time, make sure you towel off your back,” Durant said.

The rear of his Curry’s white Diesel t-shirt – coincidentally, the same one Green was wearing, identifiable by the crossing straps built in to the back – was soaking wet. Curry was about to explain, but swallowed his next words. And broke into a smile.

“Thanks bro,” he said to Durant. “I appreciate it, man. Thanks for looking out.”

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