- Senior writer for ESPN.com
- Spent seven years at the Los Angeles Daily News
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS general manager Bob Myers has forgotten much of what transpired in the hours after Kevin Durant told him he was leaving as a free agent and signing with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2019.
It was, as one can imagine, a low moment. The Warriors’ run of five straight NBA Finals appearances had just ended in the most painful way possible, with a loss to the Toronto Raptors following devastating injuries to Durant and Klay Thompson. The dynasty that once seemed impenetrable was now collapsing on itself. Durant was leaving, the remaining roster was creaky and expensive.
But Myers’ job is to think about the future even when the present is on fire. The Warriors weren’t the first franchise to stare into the abyss after a superstar departure and wonder how it would ever climb out of it.
Most teams take years to recover. Their runs fade into NBA history, a reminder of how rare it is to build an historic dynasty like the Boston Celtics (1960s-70s), Los Angeles Lakers (1980s and 2000s) and Chicago Bulls (1990s) that can extend beyond that first rise and fall.
It remains to be seen which group of championship teams these Warriors will fall into. But in returning to the Finals after just a two-year rebuild, they’ve already done what few expected back when Durant left.
“If I’m being honest, I’m surprised because we really were on the other side of things,” Myers says. “We had the worst record in the league, then we missed the play-in tournament.
“So I think I’m appreciating this year, however it goes, more.”
There is no one trait that led the Warriors back to the Finals this year. Some will use “culture” as a way to explain this season’s run. But that has become a generic catch-all in modern professional sports.
But the construction — and reconstruction — of a championship-level team is a special kind of alchemy best explained in hindsight by those who lived it.
“It’s easy to look back and connect the dots,” Myers says. “It’s a little tougher when you’re looking ahead. When you’re in it.”
And in the summer of 2019, Myers and the Warriors were in the thick of it. The way forward was perilous, costly and not at all guaranteed to succeed. But there was a way. The Warriors just had to have the chutzpah to try.
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