Kevin Durant wandered around an unfinished Chase Center after a 2018 practice and pondered what the future might hold in the Warriors’ new home.
“My imagination is going wild right now with possibilities,” he told reporters then.
Durant said he could “see a lot of points being scored here.”
In the three years Chase Center has been open, though, Durant, who signed with the Brooklyn Nets the following season, has scored only 20 points on the Warriors’ turf — and that number won’t be increasing anytime soon.
The Nets will make their annual trip to San Francisco Sunday, but for the third time in four seasons, Durant won’t be in the lineup.
Durant has been sidelined since early January with a sprained ligament in his right knee. He isn’t expected to return to game action until next month. That leaves Bay Area-based fans having to wait yet another season to see Durant play while donning an opposing team’s uniform after he helped win two titles with the Warriors.
Durant missed all of the 2019-20 season rehabbing an Achilles injury. The Nets didn’t play that season in San Francisco anyway because they were scheduled to play at Golden State one day after the NBA shut down after then-Jazz big man Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19.
Durant played Feb. 13, 2021 at Chase Center but fans weren’t allowed to attend due to pandemic restrictions, making for a rather dull homecoming for the two-time Finals MVP.
A season later, Durant was out when the Nets played in San Francisco due to a sprained ligament in his left knee.
Warriors fans haven’t been able to shower Durant with woos or boos in his return to the Bay since his unceremonious departure, though any distaste about his decision to leave should’ve gone out the window this summer. Led by Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson in conjunction with a supporting cast of Kevon Looney, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole among others, the Warriors made it back to the league’s highest ground and were crowned champions for a fourth time in eight years.
That title, that came during Golden State’s first postseason run since Durant’s exit, put an end to the what could’ve, should’ve been questions and gave fans renewed hope that the Warriors weren’t going anyways.
Even still, though, Curry told Rolling Stone Magazine this summer the Warriors would welcome Durant back if it made sense when rumors swirled after the former MVP requested a trade out of Brooklyn last offseason. Curry continued to say he was “never hesitant” when considering a possible reunion with Durant, whom the Warriors star said is a “really good dude” who’s “misunderstood.”
Durant opted to stay in Brooklyn, where he led the Nets to be one of the hottest teams in the NBA last month before his injury. The Nets spanked the undermanned Warriors in their last meetup, a Dec. 22 blowout loss on the second night of a back-to-back.
Golden State hasn’t been able to garner much traction since that Brooklyn beatdown, though coach Steve Kerr hopes the team’s impressive, shorthanded win in Cleveland Friday to close out a 3-2 road trip could be the jolt the Warriors have been searching for.
“It’s all set up for us, we’re getting guys back, guys are finding their rhythm and playing pretty well heading home,” Kerr said. “It’s time to take care of business.”
The Warriors are 23-23 and tied for sixth in the Western Conference standings as of Saturday morning. The Nets had also cooled off as of late without Durant and lost four straight before Kyrie Irving’s 48-point night powered them past the Jazz Friday.
Both teams are hoping to garner some momentum with the All-Star break a month out. But only one team will leave Sunday with a two-game winning streak and a true feeling that it’s righting the ship.