LOS ANGELES – Sitting back in a courtside chair, ice packs wrapped around both knees, Kevin Durant spent a few minutes Wednesday glimpsing back upon the summer that changed his life.
It was quite a process he experienced during his well-chronicled decision to leave Oklahoma City, the only NBA franchise he’d ever known, to join the Warriors. Even as he wrestled within himself, Durant knew there were a few individuals willing and able to provide support.
One of them was DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers center who upon becoming a free agent in the summer of 2015 so struggled with his choice that he made one decision, to sign with the Dallas Mavericks, but changed it within 48 hours to return to LA.
“We kind of agreed that we both went through the same thing,” Durant said after shootaround at Staples Center. “Him going to Dallas and then having second thoughts about wanting to stay here, and stay around the people that he grew up with and wanting to stay with this organization, him making that decision was bold. It was a tough decision. It made him uncomfortable. But it grew him as a person and as a basketball player.
“I felt the same way about my decision.”
Durant and Jordan, both 28, will shake hands before the Warriors-Clippers game Wednesday night and then they’ll compete against each other for 48 minute. And when the horn sounds, they’ll return to a friendship that has lasted roughly a decade.
Both went to college in the Lone Star State, Durant at the University of Texas, Jordan at Texas A&M. They have been teammates in international competition. So there was a comfort level whenever they spoke during the summer.
Indeed, Jordan was part of the Clippers contingent – that also including Chris Paul and Blake Griffin – that pitched Durant on coming to LA. The Clippers made an impression.
“Those three guys are tremendous and unbelievable talents,” said Durant, who typically spends most of his summer in Southern California. “They made it tough on me. Just knowing those guys . . . that’s what made it tough.”
As much as Jordan wanted Durant as a teammate, he never brought pressure.
“More than anything, he was just a real friend,” Durant said. “He wanted me to come to the Clippers. But at the end of the day, he didn’t care. He was going to be my friend no matter what.
“I kind of gravitated toward being around that, and wanting to be around genuine friendships, no matter who you play for or what you do or what decisions you make. That’s why I was around him, more than anything. It was just genuine and mutual love for each other.”
Knowing Jordan would be there, regardless of his decision, assuaged Durant. Not because he was worried about losing a friend but because he knew he had one.
And when Durant chose the Warriors, Jordan did not pepper him with questions, perhaps because he understood as much as anyone could.
“We didn’t talk about what I wanted to do,” Durant recalled. “I just did it. I didn’t tell him what I was doing. I just made a decision, and he was the first one to text me and tell me that he was proud of me and congrats. We just moved on from there.”