OAKLAND – Having already received a warm welcome, the Warriors’ newest star was quick to introduce himself and his work to Bay Area basketball fans.
Seven seconds after Team USA teammate DeMarcus Cousins won the opening tipoff against Team China, Kevin Durant took a pass from Kyrie Irving and pulled up for a deep 3-pointer, which was followed by a Tuesday night noise explosion inside Oracle Arena.
Or maybe, given his new professional affiliation, we should say Durant “splashed” it from well beyond the arc.
“I didn’t lose sleep over today; I just wanted to be myself and do my normal routine,” Durant said. “Kyrie, being the great guy he is, told me before the tip that he was throwing it to me no matter what.
“I knew that I was going to pull the first shot since, like, yesterday. Luckily it went in.”
Indeed the initial moments of what local fans hope will be a long and fruitful relationship began about as auspiciously as possible. Durant in his first Oakland appearance as a Warrior scored Team USA’s first 10 points (in five minutes) and finished with 13 in a 107-57 exhibition victory over Team China.
Though other Team USA players also were showered with affection – notably Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and ex-Warrior Harrison Barnes – it was clear from the outset that Durant, 18 days after signing with the Warriors, was the big attraction for this audience.
“It was great,” Thompson said, “especially with Kevin, Draymond and Harrison, too. I was really happy that the fans gave Harrison his due. He gave us four great years; we won a championship with him and he started his career here, so I was really happy for him.”
Thompson scored 15 points and team-high five assists. Green finished with 4 points and seven rebounds. Barnes tallied 7 points.
All of which made for a fine backdrop for Durant, who could do no wrong. Wearing the blue jerseys with red and white trim, the seven-time All-Star and four-time NBA scoring champ followed his opening salvo with a pair of dunks and a three free throws before taking a seat.
Durant during pregame introductions was cheered for about 20 seconds and cheered again during a halftime conversation with Stephen Curry, who was sitting courtside. And whenever the ball found Durant, regardless of where he was, pleas of “shoot it” could be heard. He was 4-of-8 from the field.
“It was definitely a warm welcome,” Green said of Durant’s greeting, “and he came out guns blazing, which was great to see.
“Just to play with him on this floor is great. And to be playing for our country (in the building) where we suit up 41 times a year, it’s special.”
Early in the fourth quarter, when Durant unleashed a filthy shake-and-bake move to lose a defender on a step-back 3-point jumper, folks in the crowd responded as it does when Curry follows that script.
They held their breath. And when the shot rattled out, they groaned – as they do when that happens with Curry or Thompson.
Durant simply grinned. He knows there will be plenty of other opportunities in games that matter.
He surely felt the love. He’s a Warrior now, certainly in this arena, even if on this night he actually was representing Team USA.
“It was amazing,” Durant said. “The atmosphere was great. The energy was great. The fans showed me major love, so I appreciate that.
“I’m looking forward to the season, but it was good to get out there in front of them and play well.”