STATELINE — Kevin Durant’s recent signing with the Golden State Warriors has been met with criticism from all corners. The Warriors eliminated Durant in the Western Conference Finals, and in free agency he decided to join them.
Durant turns the Warriors into the NBA Finals favorite upon his arrival, while being accused of chasing championships by joining an already record-setting club. For three of the ex-athletes who are tournament favorites at the 27th American Century Championship — Mark Mulder, Eric Gagne and Mark Rypien — Durant’s motives to win a ring are understood.
“I think you want to win, and I think that’s pretty much the move he made,” Gagne said during a press conference Wednesday at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. “He went to the Warriors, who are an amazing team — and with him it’s going to be hard to beat.”
Gagne is making his fourth straight ACC appearance, and finished runner-up last year. The Canadian right-hander won a World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2007, after spending eight seasons pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I think winning is pretty much everything, once you’re settled in your career and you have a lot of money and you’re lucky to not have to work anymore,” Gagne said. “So I think winning is a lot — for me, I think my career is pretty much full with that championship with the Red Sox.”
Rypien said Durant’s situation is emblematic of the current landscape in professional sports. The two-time ACC champion and ex-quarterback played the first half of his career with the Washington Redskins before spending time with four different teams — including the divisional rival Philadelphia Eagles.
“I was one of the old dinosaurs back before free agency,” Rypien said. “You kind of played with a group of guys, practiced with a group of guys and spent your offseason with a group of guys for a long period of time.
“Each and every player has an opportunity to make this a business for themselves, and you can’t argue the fact that when free agency comes up, the open market comes up, you’ve got to take advantage of it when you can.”
An ex-MLB pitcher, Mulder considers basketball the only sport in which a team like the Warriors can be constructed. The defending ACC champion who pitched for the Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals doesn’t see a similar scenario happening in baseball, even with the lack of a salary cap.
“Basketball is that one sport where you can really do that,” Mulder said. “It’s just what they have in their CBA and the way it works, and other sports aren’t quite that same way.”