Warriors

With MVP hardware in hand, Durant silences critics

With MVP hardware in hand, Durant silences critics

OAKLAND -- You won’t find a “Win 1 for KD” t-shirt for sale on the internet. The 10-year-NBA vet did everything in his power to deliver the Oklahoma City Thunder to the promise land and when he couldn’t get over the hump, he took his talents to the Bay Area.

It’s not a fairy tale outcome for the good people of OKC and the Cleveland is probably feeling the burn right about now as well. Durant had to do what he had to do to win a ring. But how often does a player join the best team in the world and become the best player on that team?

“I hear all the narratives throughout the season,” Durant said following the Warriors 129-120 win over the Cavs Monday night. “That I hopping on bandwagons, that I was letting everybody else do the work. But that was far from the truth. I came in, I tried to help my team, I tried to be myself, be aggressive.”

Durant hoisted his first career Larry O’Brien Monday night in front of a packed house of adoring Warriors fans decked out in yellow. He was also handed the Bill Russell Trophy as the Finals MVP.

He finished the clinching Game 5 with a team-high 39-points, giving him 30 or more in all five Finals games. Durant added seven rebounds and five assists in 40 minutes of action and shot an impressive 14-of-20 from the field.

No coattail riding for Durant. He hit the big shots. He carried his team through the downtimes and all while guarding LeBron James for much of his time on the floor. In a sea of superstar players, he quietly dominated throughout the playoffs and all the way to his first championship.

“Kevin is always an afterthought for everybody,” assistant coach Mike Brown said. “Which is too bad, because Kevin, if he’s not the best player in the world, obviously he’s one of the top three. To see him perform at the level that he did on this stage during this series was fantastic. That’s who he is and be careful, because he’s going to be around for a long time.”

With Durant in tow, plenty of other players took a backseat for Golden State. But it’s a family behind the scenes. Everyone has a role and after losing the championship to the Cavs last season, the Warriors understood they needed another piece to their puzzle.

“We knew, bringing KD here, filling the gap that needed to be filled,” Draymond Green said from the Warriors champagne soaked locker room. “You feel like there’s a chink in the armor, you try to fill that. We did that. We’re Champs.”

Best player. Best team. Finals MVP. Kevin Durant.

Durant took a gamble. He took plenty of grief for doing so, but he’s no different than so many other. Karl Malone didn’t finish his career with the Utah Jazz, he joined Gary Payton in LA trying to get a ring with Shaq and Kobe. Charles Barkley tried to sneak in a ring with the Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston. Even LeBron James had to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to get his first trophy.

This isn’t a new concept. Durant isn’t a sellout. He was a free agent and he took the best opportunity to win. To judge him for that decision is naive.

“It’s a team sport,” Durant said. “You’ve got to want to sacrifice, you’ve got to want to put your teammates in front of yourself sometimes and I just tried to do that.”

The 28-year-old forward has plenty of time to cement his legacy in the league. For now, he’s found a home with a talented group of unselfish players. If he sticks around long term, this likely won’t be the last time he’s standing on a stage at season’s end being pelted with confetti.

“It feels amazing to win a championship with these guys, I can’t wait to celebrate with these guys for the rest of the night...well, maybe the rest of the summer,” Durant said.

Durant has a $27 million player option for next season with the Warriors. They’ll have a tough time piecing together a dynasty with four All-Star level players in their prime, but they’ll give it a shot. If they can keep this group together, this might go down as one of the league’s great teams.

Curry claims he didn't throw mouthguard at ref: 'I've got a pretty good aim'

Curry claims he didn't throw mouthguard at ref: 'I've got a pretty good aim'

Just before the Warriors officially lost the game in Memphis on Saturday night, their superstar point guard lost his cool.

After not getting a foul call with 43 seconds left in the game, Steph Curry chucked his mouthguard in the direction of referee Scott Wall in a fit of rage reminiscent of Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals.

Wall immediately ejected Curry, who continued to argue with the officials.

After the game, Curry wanted to make it clear he wasn't trying to his Wall with his mouthguard.

"If I tried to throw it at him and hit him, I've got a pretty good aim," Curry said told reporters after the game. "I've thrown my mouthpiece plenty of times and thrown it on the floor. Probably not the best thing to do, but I've done it. I own up to it.

"If I was trying to throw it at him or hit him, I would have been able to executed that."

Curry explained why he reacted the way he did.

"That last play, I thought I got fouled. My frustration boiled over, did something stupid, deserved to get kicked out and that's what happened. Obviously learn from it and try not to do it again," Curry told reporters.

Now Curry and the Warriors wait to see if the NBA will suspend or fine him. He has an expectation of what the punishment will be.

"Don't think it will be a suspension or anything. My pockets will be a lot lighter," Curry said after the game.

What's caused Warriors' slow start and why it should come as no surprise

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USATSI

What's caused Warriors' slow start and why it should come as no surprise

It’s much too early to get legitimately nervous, much less start tumbling into a panic.

The Warriors are going to be fine.

Eventually.

They most certainly are not yet what they will become in about two weeks, when they settle in for a four-game homestand that begins Nov. 6. That’s 10 games into the season, and it’s conceivable the Warriors might be 6-4.

After a 111-101 loss to the ever-tenacious Grizzlies on Saturday in Memphis, the Warriors are 1-2 and, by their lofty standard, looking about as lost as a stray cat in a hurricane.

“We’re obviously not ready. We knew that,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We’re not ready to put together a full effort. And I’m not doing a great job of putting together combinations, finding the right motivation to get guys going, to get some joy and laughter in here.

“It’s just one of those rough patches. And, hopefully, we can climb our way out of it. I’m sure we will. It may take some time.”

It will take some time, and of that there is plenty.

Do not blame this lull entirely on China, not when there is so much more. The Warriors are coming off their third consecutive prolonged season, this one followed by the training camp disruption caused by spending eight days in Oakland, eight days in China, followed by eight days in Oakland leading up to opening night.

It’s easy to see the timing is off on an offense that relies on precision. The spacing is off on an offense that requires room to operate. The energy is lacking on a defense that lapses into ordinary without its bedrock intensity. Both body and spirit appear less than peak.

“We’ve been playing hard,” Kevin Durant told reporters at FedEx Forum, “but I think we’ve got to take it up a level.

“We’ll be fine. It’s 79 more games left. I’m sure we’ll figure it out.”

Understand, a team that won an NBA-best 67 games last season and posted a league-record 16-1 postseason doesn’t lose it because opponents load up. When the Warriors are on their game, opponents don’t matter.

For now, though, there is an individual listlessness that results in collective slumber. Stephen Curry has gambled himself in foul trouble in both losses and was booted in Memphis. Andre Iguodala missed an entire game and Draymond Green missed the fourth quarter of the first loss, a game in which the Warriors gave up a 13-point lead over the final 12 minutes.

And Durant’s 4.6 blocks per game is impressive. It also happens to be offset by his 6.3 turnovers per game.

“That’s on me,” he said. “I’m turning the ball over at a high rate right now. I’m really pissed at myself about it. I’ve just got to hold on to the ball. Just make the correct pass. I think I’m just rushing. I just need to calm down, settle down, and that would ignite the whole team. But if I turn the ball over, that’s contagious.”

The Rockets turned 17 Warriors giveaways into 21 points. The Pelicans turned 14 into 20. The Grizzlies turned 17 into 24.

Asked what has to change, Klay Thompson went to exactly the right place, saying “probably our defensive intensity from the jump.”

That’s where it starts, at least on the court. Meanwhile, there is more video work, more group texts about details and the need for more time for their bodies and minds to become one.

“We’ll be better,” Durant said. “We’re still finding a groove with each other. We’re still getting back into shape as far as playing our game, the flow, just the reads off not calling plays. We’ve got to get used to that again.”

Thompson is, however, displaying a modicum of impatience.

“We’ll come out Monday and we’ll play a great game,” he said. “I guarantee it.”

He’s probably right. The Warriors will be playing at Dallas, against a Mavericks team that is built to be devoured by the powerful.

That might be a quick fix. But it won’t be the final fix. That is weeks away.