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9:40AM

Durant on dust-up with Draymond: ‘Spit happens in the NBA’

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — Kevin Durant, who often has the answers, this time had a question. “Anyone want to ask about basketball?” he wondered, his words paced as if trying to run down the clock.

Not on this Tuesday night, not after this game, when it wasn’t so much the men who were in the lineup for the Warriors for their 110-103 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

But the man who wasn’t, Draymond Green.

Oh, he was in the lineup of the game notes on the press table, that document having been created before Warriors management, specifically general manager Bob Myers and head coach Steve Kerr, suspended Green for a non-punch dust-up with Durant after Monday night’s loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles.

But by game time Tuesday, when as proclaimed by the badges worn by some Warriors employees — none of them players — the Dubs recorded their 300th straight Oracle sellout, Draymond was not even in the building.

A little reprimand for the team’s emotional leader — as well as the loss of a day’s salary, roughly $120,000. ”I think what will be the hardest thing for him,” Myers said, “is not playing basketball (Tuesday) night.”

Myers, who played at UCLA and then was a players’ agent before he became the Warriors' GM, reminded, “Basketball is an emotional sport. These things happen.”

That they happened between Green, who has his fiery moments, and Durant, who at the end of the season will be a free agent and might be leaving for the New York Knicks, makes the incident more compelling. That’s two-fifths of a starting five from a franchise trying to win a third straight NBA title.

“I’m trying to move on,” said Durant. “Once the ball is tipped, nothing else matters. I think that’s the approach everyone takes. I want to keep this in house. I’m not trying to give nobody no headlines.”

What he was trying do Monday, in L.A., in the dying seconds of regulation, was get the ball from Green, who was bringing it down court and then let it slip away.

On Tuesday, Durant had more than enough, scoring a game-high 29 points, though he made only 9 of 23 field goal attempts. "Just night in and night out, you can pretty much mark down 25-30 points,” Kerr said about Durant, “whether he shoots the ball well or not. Because he’s going to get to the line.” Where he was 11 for 11.

Asked if he was surprised by Green’s suspension, Durant, in a classic sports response, said, “I was just focused on the game. I didn’t care either way.”

Durant and Green did not communicate Tuesday, but the Warriors leave Wednesday for Houston. Both KD and Draymond will be on the same plane, in the same hotel and on the same court.

“His presence has been part of this team for a while before I got here,” Durant said of Green. “He has been a huge staple in the organization. But that’s what happens in the NBA. Spit happens. I just try my best to move on and be a basketball player. I got nothing else to do but be the best player I can be every single day.”

As Quinn Cook, who started at guard in place of the injured Steph Curry, pointed out, “I think we’re all professionals. We love each other. We’re together eight months a year. We’re like brothers. Brothers fight. We have a common goal. We’re going to get past this.”

Jonas Jerebko started in place of the absent Green, scoring 14 points, making four three-pointers and grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds. “Jonas was great,” said Kerr, who was going to praise the man whether or not he deserved it — and he deserved it. “He was our MVP tonight.”

Klay Thompson got 24 points, as well as some observations. “We just want to play basketball,” he said. “This game wasn’t about what happened (Monday) night. We wanted to put on a show for the fans. I’m happy we got the win tonight. This is not about personal agendas. We win Thursday and then Saturday (Dallas) and Sunday (San Antonio), this will be in the past.”

A reference was made to the Chicago Bulls of Michael Jordan, when the legendary star got into fracas with a teammate named Steve Kerr.

“When you play at a very high level, things happen,” allowed Kerr. “And I kicked MJ’s ass.”

9:34AM

Dominance links Bama football and Golden State Warriors

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — The idea is interesting. The college football writer of the New York Times, Marc Tracy, contends that Alabama’s football team has in effect become the Warriors.

Yes, the NBA Warriors, the team that both astonishes, because of its success, and to the big boys in the Eastern time zone irritates, because the Dubs' home games end at around 1 a.m. in New York and Boston.

It's rare when a California team, in any sport, becomes the benchmark. But there was the headline in Monday morning’s Times and Tracy writing about Bama, “They are so dominant that their best player, quarterback Tea Tagovailoa, usually sits out the fourth quarter, much as Stephen Curry, the Warriors' otherworldly star, frequently does.”

Can’t blame Tracy for trying. Or the Warriors or Bama for winning.

Curry didn’t sit it out on Monday night, literally, although he did virtually, playing only 1 minute 52 seconds of a period the Warriors entered leading by 19 points after one of their trademark third-quarter bursts.

Eventually, the Dubs would win, 117-101, over the Memphis Grizzlies to push their record for the young season to 10-1.

Bama, in case you’re interested, is 9-0, and headed for another championship. As apparently are the Warriors.

Golden State — maybe we change the name to Gold Standard — was far from perfect. Curry missed six of his first seven shots, although he made 5 of his last 10, scoring 19 points. And at the close of one of those Warrior-esque third quarters, when the Gold Standard outscored the Grizz, 34-15, Steph blocked Wayne Selden’s layup attempt.”\

The Warriors played the Grizzlies grind-it-out, hold-the-ball style early on. And had a spate of turnovers. Probably because Draymond Green, the boss man out there, got hurt, a foot contusion that would keep him out the entire second half. He had no points, four rebounds and no assists. He had no broken bones either, an X-ray showed.

Then, as Kevin Durant said, “We used our physicality and started to play our game.” Durant had 22 points.

“A lot of times he’ll have the ball in his hands anyway,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Durant, “but we do occasionally design stuff where he can handle the ball and distribute. With Draymond out in the second half, the ball just naturally gravitated to KD more, and this was a typical Kevin night where he doesn’t have to shoot a whole lot. He might not even be interested in shooting a whole lot”.

Durant took only 11 shots, making 7. For this game the shooter was Klay Thompson, 11 of 21, 27 points. “Klay has gotten better with his ball handling and with his passing,” said Kerr. “He’s just expanding, and his game is growing.”

Thompson wanted to talk about others, especially Durant. “He was doing everything out there,” Thompson said of Durant. “When he gets to mid-range he is clearly impossible to stop. Our defense was also really impressive. A mixture of those two things, I think, spurred that run.”

Alfonzo McKinnie, who played his way on to the team during the summer league, had another big game, 14 points off the bench.

“It’s unbelievable,” Thompson said of McKinnie. “I don’t want to jinx him, but he makes his first shot every time he comes into the game. Since the preseason I’ve been seeing him play. He’s so efficient, and he fills a great role for us, as far as his defensive versatility, his ability to rebound and his ability to knock down jumpers.

“He’s a great athlete, and I cannot believe the guy hasn’t been in the NBA for years now. He took a crazy path, and he deserves everything he’s doing.”

McKinnie, street tough — both arms are full of tattoos — said he isn’t surprised by what he’s been able to do. What has surprised him is the ovation from the Oracle Arena sellout crowds. ”Oh, man,” said McKinnie, “the atmosphere is crazy. I’ve never seen anything like that.”

What Memphis coach J.B, Bickerstaff saw Monday night was hardly unexpected. “First and foremost, they (the Warriors) are good. They know who why are.”

So does the U. of Alabama, to one writer at least the Warriors of college football.

9:18AM

Good old Warriors had speed, quickness — like good new Warriors

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — They came to remember and to inspire, champions of another era returning to hear cheers, and also to be heard.

They are men whose collective success more than 40 years ago is displayed on a banner hanging high in Oracle Arena — adjacent to banners earned by others in recent years,

The old Warriors, men now in their 60s and 70s. Cliff Ray, Rick Barry and others were back, telling tales and taking stock. And to his credit, Steve Kerr, coach of the current Warriors, invited Ray to practice, where Cliff spoke not so much of the good old days but the good new days.

“It was great to have those guys at shoot-around,” said Kerr. “They came in and talked to our players.”

Barry, Ray, Butch Beard, Jamal Wilkes, George Johnson. Charles Dudley and assistant coach Joe Roberts then watched the current Warriors, behind Steph Curry’s 51 points, beat the Washington Wizards, who were the Washington Bullets when the Warriors swept them in the 1975 NBA finals.

It was a time for nostalgia, and for acknowledgment. The old Warriors — Barry now is 74, Beard 71, Ray 69 — enjoy the new Warriors, Steph and Kevin et al, as much as the loyal crowd at the Oracle does.

“We were built on speed and quickness,” said Dudley, the guard nicknamed Hopper, “and they’re doing the same thing. One thing different is we used 10 and 11 men.”

The main man was the 6-foot-7 Barry, a Hall of Famer who could pass, shoot, run and maybe most importantly talk. He had an opinion on everything. Still does.

Those ’75 Warriors staggered out of the semis against the Bulls in seven games — similar to the way the ‘18 Warriors made it past the Rockets in seven games.

Barry had been benched. “I think I was 3 for 14,” he said. “But with George and Cliff Ray in the middle, we held them scoreless for seven and a half minutes. I wanted to go back in, but to Al Attles' credit, he kept me on the bench. Why break up what’s working for you?”

Attles, the head coach, was not in attendance Wednesday night, a bit of irony perhaps.  

After defeating the Bulls in ’75, the Warriors had to play the Bullets. One East Coast paper called the Dubs the worst team ever to reach the finals.

After losing the first three games, the Bullets attempted to instigate a fight between Barry and the less-talented Mike Riordan. Attles, known affectionately as “The Destroyer,” bulled out to save his star and was ejected. Roberts took over, with an iron hand.

“Everybody on our bench was saying something,” Barry recalled. “Joe shut them up. He was coaching.”

The Bullets had won three of four from the Warriors during the regular season.

“But one game I had a sore knee,” said Barry. “Another I just had a lousy game. They said Riordan could guard me. He was shorter than me, and I was faster than him. We matched up well with the Bullets. Cliff Ray could bang Wes Unseld around, and Jamal played great defense on Elvin Hayes.”

Though Attles, 82 and not feeling well, was unable to attend, his son, Alvin, was there, announcing the Al Attles Center for Excellence, an academic program.

Coach Attles believed in using all his players. “That was one of our advantages,” said Dudley. “Our bench was always stronger. Other teams would get tired.”

Now they might get tired of hearing how the Warriors won the title.

“The most valuable player was Clifford Ray, not me,” said Barry, who was chosen for that award in the finals. “The leadership Cliff showed was the difference. He called a players-only meeting.

“We were like family. I love all these guys. We had so much fun. It was such a great experience.”

Winning usually is.

10:40AM

Another win for the Warriors, “the best team in the world”

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — The other coach called them the best team in the world. Before the game.

Then the Warriors made Igor Kokoskov look very good by making themselves look like, well, if not the best team in the world then at least the best team in Oakland, which certainly is where the world of basketball has been located the past few years.

You know what the Warriors can do. So does Kokoskov. And Monday night, for the first time in the four games they’ve played in a season that has months and miles to go, they played that way.

Like the best team in the world, crushing Kokoskov’s Phoenix Suns.

The final score was only 123-103, but at one time the Dubs were up 88-58, by 30 points, with 5:23 to play — in the third quarter.

“That looked like our team,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “They had a purpose with each possession. They tried to get the guys better shots, and they got the threes together. It was a good night.”

A night the rest of the NBA knew was possible — and probable.

You’ve got these back-to-back champions, as the Warriors' slogan goes, and then you add this ever-improving 7-foot, 245-pounder, Damian Jones, who’s not only tall but wide — and well, thoughts of a three-peat, Pat Riley’s copyrighted term, seem quite realistic.

In effect, the Warriors, now 3-1 — if that matters, and it doesn’t — stopped fouling and started shooting.

“When you foul,” reminded Kerr, “you can’t get out in transition and run, so they go hand in hand. For the most part, we did a good job defending without fouling.”

It was Kokoskov, born a Serbian, now a naturalized U.S. citizen, in his first year as the Suns' head coach, who before tipoff said, “We are playing the best team in the world. We think about them, but we focus on ourselves. We know what we have to do to compete with these guys.”

But they couldn’t. Steph Curry had 29 points, after scoring 30 or more in the other three games. Kevin Durant had 22 and Klay Thompson, a bit off the other three games, scored 16, if hitting only 1-of-6 on threes. Jones, who has spent most of his previous two NBA seasons in the G-League (nee D-League), scored 13 in 20 minutes.

“This is why we have to have Damian,” said Kerr, who has been questioned as to why he starts Jones at center ahead of Jordan Bell. “We’ve gone against Steven Adams. Rudy Gobert, (Nikola) Jokic and tonight Deandre Jordan. Damian passed this week’s test with flying colors.”

Even though Jones’ game-tying attempt against Denver on Sunday night was blocked at the final buzzer.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm from the other guys trying to set up Damian,” said Kerr. “He’s fun to play with. He takes up that vertical space and makes it tough to guard him. He was better tonight, and he still can get better. He’s so physically imposing. He makes people shoot over him.”

Jones understands his role and also understands he’s in a lineup with four All-Stars, which can be humbling if not intimidating. But the teammates have embraced him, and DeMarcus Cousins, the other 7-footer, who continues to rehab his torn Achilles, has been coaching Jones.

“Little tidbits,” said Jones of the advice. “Scouting reports. Reminding me to attack the boards. I have to stay within myself. I have confidence in my abilities.”

Why wouldn’t he, teaming with Curry, Durant, Thompson and Draymond Green? Like the lyric about New York, if you can make it on the Warriors you can make it anywhere.

The words about Jones help balance all the speculation about what will happen to the Warriors. Whether indeed they can take a third straight championship and fourth in five years. Whether Durant, a free agent at the end of the season, will stay or depart.

Now the talk has been replaced by action.

Asked about playing on consecutive nights in different cities (Denver on Sunday and Oakland on Monday), Curry said, “In the NBA everybody has back-to-backs. We’ve been around the block enough to prepare ourselves. We didn’t like the way we played (Sunday) night. We were going to try not to lose two in a row.”

They succeeded like world-beaters.

8:05PM

The Warriors own the NBA. Who would have believed?

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — Another championship, and shortly another parade. Old hat, as they say, but not if you know about the old days, when the Warriors not only didn’t have a chance to win a title, they barely had a chance to win a game.

Those haunting years, when half the crowd at the Oracle, or as it used to be called, Oakland Coliseum Arena, seemed to be cheering for the other guys, mainly the Lakers. Before that, the Bulls. Before that, the Celtics.

Those awful seasons, 2000-01, when the Warriors won only 17 games; the others with 19 wins or 21 wins, when you knew Kobe or Shaq — or Derek Fisher, for heaven’s sake — would break a tie and break your heart. Hopeless.

Now the Warriors are in command. The NBA has become their league, pro basketball their game.

It used to belong to Boston or the Lakers. To Bird and Magic. Then to Kobe and Shaq. The power and glory have been grabbed away by Steph and KD and Klay — and others on the team that clearly has become the ruler of the sport.

We know what to expect, Draymond in an opponent’s face, Andre orchestrating, Kevin — and think how fortunate the Dubs are to get him — throwing them in when he isn’t stuffing them down, and the Splash Brothers, Curry and Thompson, hitting from here, there and everywhere.

Nobody equated Northern California with basketball success. The rest of the nation still doubts. It’s like, this must be a mistake. Weren’t the Celtics supposed to surprise? They play in ESPN’s figurative backyard. If a California team is involved, isn’t it going to be the Lakers? 

It isn’t that the A’s, Giants, Raiders and 49ers went unnoticed when they won their championships, but as a man once proclaimed on the radio, “Unless it’s the Lakers, Dodgers or USC football, nobody in the east pays attention.”

Do we, in the state with largest population, with five major league baseball teams, with four NFL teams, with three NBA and three NHL teams, care? Sure we do. But it’s not going to change.

So we’re grateful that the fate of the Warriors changed. Pleased that Joe Lacob and Peter Guber showed proper leadership; pleased that Bob Myers understands how to create a great NBA team and that Steve Kerr and his assistants, particularly Mike Brown, who a year ago became the interim man, know how to coach that team; grateful that a varied, diverse and delightfully likable group of athletes compose that team.

Basketball is game of few secrets. There’s no dugout into which a player can retreat, no helmets under which one can hide. In effect, these guys are running about in their underwear, only a few feet from the nearest spectator. We know every move LeBron made. Or J.R. Smith didn’t make.

You own up to your mistakes and gleefully — but not arrogantly — accept the accolades. Humility is only a game away. Curry sets a record with nine three-pointers, then goes 1-for-11 on 3-pointers. Hey, he has that third title. So does Northern Cal.

Perspective again. Four straight NBA Finals, three of those resulting in trophies. Did anyone believe, when the Warriors had 12 consecutive losing seasons, ’96 through ’08, and 16 of 18, that this could ever happen?

That the Warriors emerged from the agony of being one of the worst to become the very best is a tale that must be told and retold. Warrior fans deserve the chance to smile and cheer as the parade passes by. They filled the seats when it was the other team filling the baskets with jump shots and layups.

Who knows if the Warriors are a dynasty? The Celtics won eight in a row, nine out of 10; the Bulls three in a row twice, six of eight; the Lakers three in a row and numerous times in the finals as losers. So maybe the Warriors need a couple more championships before the “D” word legitimately can be applied.

No matter. They are a tremendous team, king of the hill, top of the heap, where we never thought they’d be.