Honorary Warriors For Life? Kevin Durant and Sarunas Marciulionas

Chill out, this is just for fun.

Given the sobering announcements today of illnesses and season suspensions and the general stressful state of the world, it’s hard to feel too strongly about basketball. But it’s also an escape for some of us, so we’ll continue to post these lighter pieces during the season suspension.


Today’s HWFL was going to be in honor of Kevin Durant’s Brooklyn Nets coming to town to play in front of an empty arena. But they didn’t even get to do that.

Even though KD hasn’t played a minute all year, he appears to cast a long shadow over the organization, and the shadow seems to have given the executioner’s thumbs down on coach Kenny Atkinson.

So let’s check in on how Dub Nation is feeling about KD.

Honorary Warriors For Life

The concept is simple. There are some players who are not in the Warriors organization, but Warriors fans will still root for anyway (as long as no Warriors interests are at stake). So they are not a part of Dub Nation, but they still are welcomed into Dub Nation. This is very often because they are former Warriors players, but not always.

More details are included in our master list of all those voted Honorary Warriors For Life so far. In short we do a Twitter poll and getting >50% support of voters who know them achieves Honorary Warrior status. >75% support achieves Honorary Warrior For Life.

Kevin Durant

If you weren’t there, it’s hard to appreciate those weird days after the 2016 Finals. From the gloomy depths of Game 7, Kevin Durant’s free agency decision was like a thunderbolt cutting through the waves of bandwagon derision flooding Dub Nation.

Before his decision, I wrote a nice piece called Kevin Durant’s Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Warriors and I regularly called Dub Nation’s pining for KD the “Kevin Durant Magic Unicorn Fairytale”. It just didn't seem possible, but the fact that it just might happen was so tantalizing.

It’s fun to look back with hindsight on my Pros and Cons list of why GSW should want KD.

PROS

  • he is a scoring stud

  • he is a great shooter, which is something that the W’s (believe it or not) lack past Splash Bros

  • he is a decent passer and showed a lot of excellent defense in the WCF

  • he would give a second shot-creator on team. W’s basically can’t win with Curry out and very hard to win with subpar Curry. 

  • high character

  • high IQ

All obvious at the time and obvious now. The Cons ended up being significant.

CONS

  • questions about his accepting a smaller scoring load

KD did not ever complain in any way and he willingly took a step back in volume and focus.

  • what would the Dubs have to give up to make space for KD ?

The Dubs did give up a bunch of players, most notably starters Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut. The first half of the first season was a rough adjustment period for the many new players, but once Stephen Curry found a way to be aggressive alongside Durant, it was lights out for the league.

  • questions about his reducing the amount of ISO (note his public statement defending ISOs in OKC)

This was always a balancing act for KD and the team. His ISOs were great for bailing out the team but also didn’t leverage the massive IQ, shooting and team play around him.

On this topic, picky GSW coach Ron Adams told me:

You know when you talk about KD's one on one. We weren't moving the ball in general. We were struggling. They were doing a good job defensively. We weren't doing our normal job making the simple extra pass. Quite frankly, we needed him because nothing much else was happening. So it was born out of just the situation of the moment.

So most of the guys are all pretty compatible in terms of how they play. KD approaches it differently than Steph. I just think there's a compatibility, in my mind.

But they always found a workable balance in the playoffs, with only the Houston Rockets really able to take advantage of this tension.

  • questions about his accepting a #2 or #1A role

To his credit and Steph’s credit, they did the best job in history of sharing a #1A and #1B role. But Durant was always going to be #2 in the SF Bay Area’s hearts, and by the end, it was understandable that he’d want to go somewhere he could be #1 and back in MVP contention, to satisfy his own striving to be the best as well as the desires of all the people who depended on him financially (including Nike and his business entourage).

He blended his game and career to fit in with the team as well as he could, played outstanding playoff basketball, and was the missing piece to make the 2016-17 Warriors arguably the best team of all-time.

Well 69.5% / Poor 10.5% / Don’t care either way 18% / Don’t know who they are 2%.

The large majority of Dub Nation still pulls for KD, but not quite enough to hit our 75% threshold for Honorary Warrior For Life. A small but notable 10% slice of Dub Nation now pulls against him, probably for his recent free agency rejection of GSW. He still easily qualifies to be an Honorary Warrior.

Sarunas Marciulionas

One of the first Europeans to get real playing time in the NBA, he introduced the Euro-step to the league. The business side of his journey is quite elaborate, with elaborate legal maneuvering between the Atlanta Hawks and the Golden State Warriors.

He played from 1989-90 through 1992-93 for GSW as a super-sub and was runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year in 1992. His local SF Bay connections helped him get funding for the Lithuanian national team from the Grateful Dead and others. This rag-tag team ended up winning bronze at the 1992 Olympics.

Well 46.2% / Poor 1.9% / Don’t care either way 26.9% / Don’t know who they are 25%.

He isn’t remembered so well nowadays, with 25% of responders not knowing who he was. But of those who do, 61.6% want him to do Well, so we award him the rank of Honorary Warrior!

There are some nice memories of Sarunas in these LGW comments.


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