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7:54PM

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.

7:45PM

No panic visible from Warriors; is it hidden by the smoky air?

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — You stop by Warriors practice and expect to see a lot of panic — that is, if panic is visible through the smoky, unhealthy air — but you’re disappointed.

There’s Kevin Durant, ignoring his $25,000 fine for “directing inappropriate language toward a fan” in Dallas and ignoring the media, popping jumper after jumper.

There’s Steph Curry, who seemingly is unable to stand up and definitely won’t be in Wednesday night’s game against Oklahoma City, bouncing balls off his head in a soccer routine.

And there’s head coach Steve Kerr, loser of three in a row for the first time since who knows when, sitting behind a microphone and in front of the cameras, and handling every question the way his team of late has not been handling the basketball: smoothly.

For the Warriors, this was the week when if the sky didn’t fall it sank a little, unlike the Warriors' field goal attempts at San Antonio. When the façade of love and understanding had a few holes. When Kerr, who Tuesday pointed out he was trying to defuse the situation with his comment, saying, “This is the real NBA.”

The league of big men and big egos, of small mistakes that decide games, of teams so balanced that a good shot or a bad bounce is often the difference in a game — although it’s invariably the better team that makes the good shot.

“We haven’t been in the real NBA the past couple of years,” was Kerr’s addition to the opening statement, after the defeat at San Antonio on Sunday night. “We’ve been in this dream, and now we’re faced with adversity.”

Meaning the groin injury to Curry, who when he's on the court can decide any game from any distance; meaning the toe injury to Draymond Green, of whom Kerr said, “This guy’s been so good; we’re not hanging any banners without him.” Meaning, certainly, the feud (or dust-up, or contretemps, if you will) between Green and Durant in L.A. a week ago. Meaning the frequent references to Durant’s impending free agency and rumored departure to the Knicks, or worse, the Lakers.

Sometimes the best view is from a distance.

Marc Stein, the longtime NBA observer now writing his perceptions for the New York Times, said, “Crisis is probably too strong a word, given that they remain prohibitive favorites to win the championship in June, but the Warriors have been undeniably wounded by a spate of injuries and last week’s sideline spat between All-Star forwards Kevin Durant and Draymond Green.”

The injuries will heal, or at least one expects them to heal, but who knows about the rift? Nobody on the Warriors wants to discuss it.

“Don’t ask me that again,” Durant responded to the San Jose Mercury News’ Mark Medina after the loss against Houston in the opener of the lose-them-all three-game trip in Texas. So nobody did. From the Bay Area media.

But when the Dubs hit the road again, Durant will be hit by that question again, whether it’s unfair or not. The subject is out there, and it’s not going to go away, until — Warriors fans, take a deep breath — Kevin goes away.

This is November, miles away from the playoffs. And from the end of Durant’s contract. What the Warriors need at the moment is to play the defense they have been playing and the offense they haven’t been — at least in getting routed by Milwaukee at home and being held to 92 points in San Antonio.

“Without Steph and Draymond,” said Kerr, “we can’t get away with things we do when we have them. We were 10-1. Last year, we were the best team defensively of any in the playoffs.

“We have been on a run over a four-year stretch. Nobody ever won as many games as we have the last four years. There’s been a lot of things going right for us.”

Right now, they’re going quite wrong.

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.

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