CLEVELAND -- Kevin Durant was one of the best players in the NBA when he was a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and making the decision to leave for the very team he pushed to a Game 7 in the 2016 Western Conference Finals, the Golden State Warriors, raised questions of his fit in an established culture.
Those questions have been asked and answered throughout the first three rounds of the 2017 NBA Playoffs, which the Warriors have swept through on the way to an NBA Finals matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third consecutive season.
“He’s one of the most dangerous guys we have in the world already, and it makes it even more dangerous when you equip that talent, that skill with those guys,” Cavaliers small forward LeBron James said.
Through the first three rounds of the postseason. Durant averaged 25.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.2 blocks and 0.7 steals over 33.4 minutes of play. Additionally, Durant converted 55.6 percent of his shots from the field and 41.7 percent of his three-point tries.
After scoring 42 points over two games against the Portland Trailblazers in the first round, Durant averaged 24.5 in a four-game sweep of the Utah Jazz. Then, in Golden State’s four-game sweep of the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, Durant scored 28.0 points per game, including 34 in Game 1 and 33 in Game 3.
“I think you adapt to the culture,” James said. “You adapt to the style, and the same thing happened to me when I went to Miami. I started to slash more and move more off the ball, shoot more stand-still threes and figure out ways I could be more productive than just having the ball in isolation. It’s the right thing to do.”
Known for his summer workouts in Akron with fellow professionals, James has known Durant for many years, competing both with and against him at the game’s highest levels.
“I’ve always paid attention to him, even when he was in high school,” James said. “We’ve worked out in the summertime before, numerous summertimes. We’ve competed at the highest level. We’ve been on the team together, competed for gold.
“So it’s someone I’ve always looked at, and just seeing the way he plays the game, mastered the game, he’s gotten better and better every year. I don’t look at anybody pushing me. I kind of push myself, but I’ve always looked to see what he was doing.”
And by knowing the kind of competitor Durant is, James feels the former MVP will be ready for his return to The Finals after a five-year absence following a Western Conference Championship with the Thunder in 2012.
“He’s in a great position,” James said. “I know he’s excited about this opportunity to be a part of The Finals again. I can’t speak for him, but it’s just my thoughts, and we look forward to the challenge.”