MIAMI — Kevin Durant left the franchise that drafted him to join a super team in Golden State. LeBron James also left the franchise that drafted him to join a super team in Miami.
That’s where the similarities stop, according to James.
“I don’t think that our careers are the same as far as changing teams,” James said to reporters Thursday when asked if his move to the Heat allows him to appreciate Durant’s move and situation with the Warriors. “[Golden State] was already kind of put together, and you just implement a guy that’s ready to sacrifice, a great talent, a guy that’s willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win. But that team, they knew what they were about. He just had to come in and just do what he had to do. And that’s what he been doing.”
James has a point.
In the summer of 2010 when Miami added Chris Bosh and James to its roster, the list of Heat players who returned from the previous season was made up of Joel Anthony, Carlos Arroyo, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, James Jones, Jamaal Magloire and Dwyane Wade. Meanwhile, Durant joined an already established Golden State core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala.
Also, James joined a Heat team that lost in the first round of the playoffs the season before he arrived. Durant joined a Warriors team that was coming off back-to-back Finals appearances and had just set a new regular-season wins record with a 73-9 mark the season before he hopped on.
“For me, when I left here to go to Miami, we had to build something,” James said. “We brought in eight or nine guys, and we had to build something. And when I came back here, we built something again. But I can definitely appreciate the simple fact of him either reshaping his game or just sacrificing maybe some shots here, sacrificing having the ball in his hands all the time. But it works for their team. I mean, who wouldn’t want to sacrifice playing on a Golden State team or a San Antonio team or a Cleveland team when you know the ultimate result is you can actually compete for a championship.”
Is this Warriors team even fair, though? Golden State is one win away from becoming the first NBA team to finish the playoffs unbeaten.
And it really hasn’t even been that close, as the Warriors have outscored teams by 16.1 points per game during their historic postseason. Curry is averaging 28.6 points and shooting 44.2 percent from 3-point territory, and Durant is averaging 27.2 points and shooting 44.9 percent from deep in the playoffs entering Friday’s contest.
Those numbers don’t seem fair, but James doesn’t see it that way. Golden State followed the rules when building this roster and even drafted three of its top players — Curry, Thompson and Green.
“It’s part of the rules,” James said. “The difference between my situation is — well, the best thing with Golden State’s situation is a lot of their guys are drafted. They drafted a lot of their guys. Three of their best players were already drafted, so they were able to hold on to them because they own the Bird rights, if everybody knows the CBA. So they’re able to keep Steph, Klay and Draymond and able to go out and sign someone else like they did this past summer by just getting rid of a couple pieces in Harrison Barnes and not re-signing (Leandro) Barbosa and (Andrew) Bogut and guys from last year’s team. So that allowed them to go do that.
“My case, going to Miami, we had to clear a lot of space because they didn’t have anybody as far as guys that they wanted to keep as far as Bird rights besides U.D. (Udonis Haslem) and D-Wade. They had the opportunity to go get two of us, and they did that in me and Bosh, and then we were able to finagle a way to get Mike Miller because some of us took pay cuts and got some other guys. We had Rio (Mario Chalmers) because he was drafted. But it was a different situation. Totally different. Totally different. But is it fair? I don’t care. I mean, I think it’s great. It’s great for our league. Right now, look at our TV ratings, look at the money our league is pouring in. I mean, guys are loving the game, our fans love the game. I mean, who am I to say if it’s fair or not?
“I mean, listen. It happens. It’s sports. You have an opportunity to sign one of the best players, and you can do it, go ahead and do it. Why not? If I become an owner, I’m going to try to sign everybody. Appreciate it.”
It’s hard not to appreciate the Warriors’ dominance.