Warriors’ dynasty depends on keeping Durant

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — That adage, you never know what you had until you lost it? Well, the Warriors don’t have to lose Kevin Durant — as so many believe may happen — to understand what a talent and leader he is.

Who knows what Durant is thinking? He will be a free agent when this season ends, and in New York the hope is that he’ll sign with the Knicks. Unless, as others say, he’ll join LeBron James to return the Lakers to greatness.

But what I’m thinking is the Warriors can’t afford to lose him. Not if they want to continue this success, which is growing into a dynasty.

On Monday night, Durant was, to quote his coach, Steve Kerr, “Incredible, incredible.” He scored 49 points, and the Warriors, down by 18 at one point, beat the Orlando Magic, 116-110. That was after he scored 44 on Saturday night in the win over Sacramento.

“The guy is just amazing,” said Kerr.

So is Steph Curry, but for the last nine games, Curry was unable to play because of a groin injury; he certainly was active as an unofficial cheerleader, waving his arms and shouting gleefully as the Warriors rallied.

So is Klay Thompson, who had 29 against Orlando, 19 in the fourth quarter.

So is Draymond Green, also out with a toe injury. He is the so-called spiritual leader of the Warriors, emotional and confrontational, whose attitude and style irritated Durant — and from the way Draymond was suspended for a game, a loss of $120,480 — irritated management.

The Warriors have something special going, as do the New England Patriots, as did the 49ers of the ’80s, the Raiders of the ’70s and ’80s, the Athletics of the ’70s, something rare and wonderful in team sport. A dominance.

It will end eventually, of course, so the trick is to extend the winning as long as possible, to retain the players who are the core of this success until, inevitably, they grow too old.

Curry is a two-time MVP — and on ESPN’s “The Jump” Paul Pierce said Curry at this point should win the award again. Durant is another former league MVP. Over the last couple of weeks, after the dust-up with Draymond and Curry’s injury, there’s no question Durant is the Warrior savior.

He is the reason the Dubs turned a four-game losing streak into a three-game win streak.

“He just kind of knew he just had to put us on his shoulders,” Kerr said Durant. “It’s not just the point totals. It’s the defense.”

Durant, in effect, is a 6-foot-10 point guard. He can dribble and drive. He can shoot inside or outside (he was 16 of 33 on Monday night). He is tireless, playing nearly 40 minutes against the Magic. He can block shots, as he blocked two down the stretch.

Asked if he had regained his offensive rhythm over the last few games, Durant shook his head. “Nah,” he said, “I should have gone for a 50-piece.” 

He only missed by one.

“I felt I had some shots that I wish I could have made last game and this game," he added. “I felt two or three of my (missed) threes looked good leaving my hand. I could be in a better groove.”

As they leave for a road trip that begins Thursday in Toronto against the Raptors, who have the best record in the NBA, the Warriors seem to have their groove back. And soon, they’ll get Curry and Draymond back.

“Two guys that are champions, All-Stars, you name it,” said Durant, himself a champion and All-Star.

“I thought Quinn (Cook) was doing a great job filling in,” Durant pointed out. “Quinn is learning a lot from Steph. When Steph gets back and Quinn still has the confidence, I think that’s going to be the key. And Draymond’s intensity. You can just tell by looking at him on the bench, he’s like a caged animal over there. Can’t wait to have him back.”

He’ll be back any day now. The real question is whether next season Kevin Durant will be back. It won’t be the same without him.

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