All eyes will be on former teammates Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant when the Golden State Warriors and the Phoenix Suns open the brand-new season of the National Basketball Association on Wednesday (Manila time) at the Chase Center in San Francisco.
Curry and Durant played together from 2017 to 2019, leading the Warriors to back-to-back titles with Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney as support crew.
Also vying for early victory in the opening night is LeBron James when his Los Angeles Lakers battle reigning champion Denver Nuggets at the Ball Arena in Colorado.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr knows how much the moment will mean to everybody, especially to Durant who played for the Brooklyn Nets and the Suns after wrapping up his Warriors stint with a sorry loss to Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors in the Finals in 2019.
“Kevin’s arrival turned us into one of the most talented teams ever and he was such a perfect fit next to our guys. Kevin is kind of a perfect fit next to anybody. But he just fit beautifully next to our group,” Kerr said.
Durant, a 13-time All-Star, played in San Francisco as a member of the Nets in February 2021 during the pandemic-delayed season when no spectators were allowed. Then, he was nursing with a sprained left ankle in March when the Suns last visited.
“It’s very comfortable for all of us when we see Kevin. This will be the 10th or 12th time we’ve seen him in a different uniform,” Kerr said.
“This time, we say our hellos and it’s great but for the fans it will be different. I anticipate our fans giving Kevin the love that he deserves. Two championships, trying to help us win a third, literally giving his body to the cause. He was incredible here and will go down as one of the great players in franchise history.”
Green won’t be part of the on-court homecoming for the Warriors as he is still sidelined by a sprained left ankle he injured during offseason workouts. He has begun scrimmaging again in recent days.
Durant spent three sensational seasons with Golden State from 2017 to 19 that included a pair of championships and his two NBA Finals Most Valuable Player trophies.
Golden State lost the 2019 title to Toronto after Durant tore his right Achilles tendon in Game 5 and Klay Thompson went down in the deciding Game 6.
“It’s always different seeing somebody in a different uniform but just to know what he did in our jersey, he did for our team and this city, for the Bay Area,” Looney said of Durant.
“He had some legendary years here. He put his body on the line, risked it all out there playing through injury. He’s always going to have the respect of our organization, of our team, and I think the Bay Area.”
As Chris Paul begins his 19th NBA season and first for the Warriors — his sixth team — he knows all about returning to former arenas where they cherish the memories.
Paul played with Durant in Phoenix in the final stretch of the previous season.
“I’m sure the fans will go crazy,” Paul said of Durant’s welcome.
“Regardless when somebody leaves depending on how it is, there will always be, I’m sure, an emotional connection with the things that they were able to do while he was here.”