OAKLAND (California) • Kevin Durant did not dress the part of the villain. He wore a blue suit set off by a white button-down shirt and scuff-free white sneakers to his first news conference since joining the Golden State Warriors in a free-agent signing that sent shock waves through the National Basketball Association (NBA).
His decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder drew mixed reviews everywhere, it seemed, but in Oakland, excited Warriors fans began congregating outside the hotel, that is the home of the team's practice complex, hours before Thursday's news conference.
Durant rejected the suggestion that he had gone looking for an easier path to his first NBA title by signing with the Warriors, last year's champions and this year's runners-up to the Cleveland Cavaliers, rather than stay in Oklahoma City and try to finish what he started.
"Nothing in this league is easy," he said. "There's no short-cuts. We've still got 82 games to play."
He added: "I think this is the hardest road because I don't know anybody here, I've never lived in this community, never played for this team, and I took a leap."
The small forward said that he had made the decision after exchanging texts with Stephen Curry, who advised him to trust the Warriors' sales pitch.
"It's hard for me to just trust somebody I just met and just talked to and making this huge change," the 27-year-old said, "but I went with my gut and my instincts and I trusted the situation, and it's not the easiest situation because I'm out of my comfort zone."
The Warriors hope to follow the blueprint of the Miami Heat, who won two championships after signing LeBron James as a free agent to create a Big Three with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Creating a Big Three - Curry, Klay Thompson and Durant - is not a foolproof design; the Los Angeles Lakers found that out themselves after they acquired Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to play with Kobe Bryant - and barely made the play-offs in their first season together.
Bob Myers, the Warriors' general manager, said the goal every off-season is to get better, and, after surrendering a 3-1 finals series lead to the Cavaliers, he acknowledged that the franchise had some improving to do.
"You never expect to get this much better," he said as he sat on the dais with Durant.
The general manager sounded surprised to have reeled in the prized free agent of this off-season.
"Until he called me and told me he was coming, I didn't think he was coming," Myers said. Twisting his body to face Durant, he added: "I'm so honoured you chose us to play for. It's a wonderful feeling, so thank you."
NEW YORK TIMES