The Mercury News

Basketball gods keep Durant from playing before Chase Center crowds


Kevin Durant was there for the dancing constructi­on workers and crane choreograp­hy at the groundbrea­king. When touring the near-finished arena, the future Hall of Fame forward's constructi­on-site attire (complete with knee-high white socks) became a meme.

The on-floor success of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green might have built Chase Center, but Warriors CEO Joe Lacob wanted the team's new arena in Mission Bay to belong to Durant.

That didn't work out. Durant didn't just leave the Warriors — fate has effectivel­y banned him from playing at Chase Center since he decided to sign with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2019.

In the 1,200-plus days since the arena opened in September of that same year, Durant has only played basketball in the building once, on Feb. 13, 2021.

The paid attendance for that game: Zero. There was some stuff happening in the world.

Since the Warriors' $1.4 billion palatial digs opened, Durant has played for more teams (2) than he has played games inside Chase Center (1, kind of).

Even after being traded back to the Western Conference, the 34-year-old star's streak of not playing a game in front of Warriors fans at Chase Center continues.

The Suns are coming to San Francisco for a critical tilt tonight. Durant won't play. He sprained his ankle after slipping on a wet spot on the floor in warmups last week. It's unclear if he'll play again this regular season.

Durant's avoidance of Warriors fans (in person; he's happy to run into them online) is quirky and bizarre. There's nothing malicious about it, but it's unquestion­ably weird.

Call it the Chase Center Curse.

Because Durant has never

played in front of a packed house in San Francisco, we have no idea how Warriors fans will react to seeing Durant playing for another team.

We might never truly know Dubs fans' true feelings on the matter.

When the streak ends, will the reaction from Warriors fans be authentic? We might already be past the statute of limitation­s — Durant has now been away from the Warriors longer than he was on the team.

There's a lot to process into a boo or cheer.

And it was one thing when Durant played for the Nets. It stung that he left the Bay by choice, but that sting wore away, especially when the Warriors won another title and Durant's Nets displayed a new level of dysfunctio­n every week, including antics from costar Kyrie Irving.

Now that the Nets' grand experiment has imploded and Durant is on the Suns, does the animus reset? Will Warriors fans view boo Durant like they boo Devin Booker and Chris Paul? Is he a nemesis by associatio­n?

And that's not even considerin­g what the Warriors organizati­on will do.

When Durant left in the summer of 2019, the Warriors played it off as a mutual breakup. It would have been classy had it not been so pretentiou­s. (A typical theme for the Warriors in the Chase Center era.)

The day after the superstar left for Brooklyn, Lacob said in an open letter that the Warriors would retire the No. 35 for Durant. Warriors fans have booed Lacob during a jersey retirement ceremony, but would Durant be the first player to be booed as his number goes into the rafters?

At some point, this strange curse will break. I am confident that Durant will play in front of Warriors fans at Chase Center sometime in his career.

(Perhaps, like Draymond shooting a 3-pointer, that confidence is disassocia­ted with reality.)

The most likely chance is that the first true Durant-at-Chase moment comes in the postseason.

The Suns and Warriors could well be the fourth and fifth seeds in the Western Conference, setting up a first-round matchup.

That's one hell of an undercard.

Now, creating such a matchup would require the Warriors to win another road game this season — something they have not done since January — but crazier things have happened in this league.

The intensity of the playoffs mixed with the peculiarit­y of the DurantDubs divorce?

If it goes down, I imagine Warriors fans will skip the “thanks for everything” theatrics.

That's a level of awkwardnes­s that might be worth the wait.

And when that's all said and done — when the curse is finally broken, win or lose — the Warriors might have to sneak Durant's jersey into the rafters.

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 ?? RAY CHAVEZ — STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER ?? Brooklyn Nets' Kevin Durant warms up before the NBA game against the Golden State Warriors at a nearly empty Chase Center amid the COVID pandemic on Feb. 13, 2021.
RAY CHAVEZ — STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER Brooklyn Nets' Kevin Durant warms up before the NBA game against the Golden State Warriors at a nearly empty Chase Center amid the COVID pandemic on Feb. 13, 2021.

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