Now War­riors’ All-Star, Du­rant was once their sec­ond choice

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY BRIAN MA­HONEY

Truth be told, Golden State’s for­mer coach wasn’t sure the War­riors needed Kevin Du­rant.

The War­riors were al­ready small-ball sen­sa­tions, ca­pa­ble of pil­ing up the points with their dar­ing drives and siz­zling shoot­ing. So rather than add an­other scorer, Don Nel­son figured Golden State might be bet­ter off get­ting a dom­i­nant man in the mid­dle to shore up the de­fence in the 2007 NBA draft.

Nel­son thought the War­riors needed Greg Oden.

That was 10 years ago, lead­ing up to the heav­ily hyped draft in which the Oden-Du­rant de­bate raged through­out bas­ket­ball. And now, as Du­rant leads the league’s most po­tent team into the NBA Fi­nals while Oden is long gone from the NBA spot­light, it’s easy to forget that a lot of peo­ple agreed with Nel­son.

“I think ev­ery­one felt that there were two play­ers there that were go­ing to be prom­i­nent play­ers, but one thing you can’t count on is in­juries,’’ War­riors ex­ec­u­tive Jerry West said. “So Greg re­ally never had a chance to have a ca­reer, where Kevin’s ob­vi­ously been more than ad­ver­tised.’’

The War­riors were look­ing like a lot­tery team in March 2007 when Nel­son was asked what he thought they should do if they got the No. 1 pick.

He’s one of the in­no­va­tors of small ball, a coach who seemed more com­fort­able with a point for­ward than a power for­ward, so it wouldn’t have been sur­pris­ing if he leaned Du­rant.

But he favoured Oden, a 7-footer who in his lone sea­son at Ohio State was draw­ing com­par­isons to Hall of Famer Bill Rus­sell, Nel­son’s team­mate in Bos­ton.

“I think it’d be pretty sim­ple for us,’’ Nel­son said. “We would prob­a­bly have to go with the big­ger guy at this point.’’

Nel­son said he might re­con­sider if he thought Du­rant was go­ing to be a superstar, and the for­ward looked like one as he tore through the Big 12 as a fresh­man at Texas. But with the War­riors al­ready hav­ing Baron Davis, Monta Ellis and Stephen Jack­son, Nel­son saw other needs.

“With this team, the cen­tre po­si­tion is one that we’re look­ing for,’’ he said. “But I’d say any­body up front. Our back­court’s pretty solid.’’

The War­riors were fined by the NBA for Nel­son’s com­ments about play­ers who weren’t yet draft el­i­gi­ble.

Bos­ton, San An­to­nio and New Or­leans also would be pe­nal­ized that spring when nor­mally but­ton-lipped coaches couldn’t help them­selves when think­ing about the prom­ise of the two fresh­men.

“I don’t think there could have been any more hype than there was,’’ Mem­phis guard Mike Con­ley said. “It was an amaz­ing time to see two great play­ers who have Hall of Fame po­ten­tial from the be­gin­ning. You just know that they could come in and win mul­ti­ple cham­pi­onships and be All­Stars ev­ery year and you don’t have that in ev­ery draft.’’

AP PHOTO

In this May 22 file photo, San An­to­nio Spurs guard De­jounte Mur­ray has his shot blocked by Golden State War­riors’ Kevin Du­rant dur­ing NBA play­off aac­tion in San An­to­nio.

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