Warriors

Fear of failure fuels Durant's rise on defense: 'I just want to be counted on'

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AP

Fear of failure fuels Durant's rise on defense: 'I just want to be counted on'

Kevin Durant is a four-time scoring champion. That part of his game has never been questioned. But, his defensive prowess has always come second in NBA circles. 

"I've been a scorer my whole life," Durant said to ESPN's Chris Haynes. "I've been a one-on-one player my whole life. All I've thought about in the past was different ways to score, rather than different ways to impact the game."

Through 11 games this season, Durant has has been a star on defense while averaging 24.8 points per game at the same time. Durant has blocked 27 shots this season, second to only 7-foot-1 center Rudy Gobert (28), and is averaging a career-high 2.5 blocks per game, tied for the NBA lead with Gobert. 

Durant's previous high for blocks per game was 1.6, a mark he set last year in his first season with the Warriors.

"I just want to be counted on by my coaches and my teammates in those situations," Durant said. "I don't want my coach to have to pull me out the game in situations in the fourth quarter because I can't play defense and then they need to go to a defense-offense [substitution pattern]. I don't want to be that player. I never wanted to be that player. So that's what I feared more than anything."

Though his defense has been noticed on a much higher scale the last two seasons playing for the Warriors, Durant says that side of the game really started to be a focus for him two seasons before joining Golden State. 

"I didn't want to be the guy where all the film clips are about how they back-doored me, or how someone drove around me or how I'm not contesting shots. I was more so just nervous about being called out during film sessions. That's why I wanted to get better."

And now, that focus level has increased with each passing day while learning from players like Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Steph Curry, among others. 

"It's contagious," Durant said. "If you're seeing that all the time, and it's creating points for you, that s-- is fun. It's fun when you get your teammates involved on both ends of the floor and you're all as one out there on the basketball court. You don't want to be the liability, and that's what I'm fighting against."

‘01 Lakers vs ‘18 Warriors: Who you got?

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NBCSBA

‘01 Lakers vs ‘18 Warriors: Who you got?

The 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers went 56-26 in the regular season in defense of the previous season's championship. But the team, led by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, stormed through the playoffs, and lost just once en route to a second straight title.

"I'll take that '01 [Lakers] team against anybody in the history of the game," Bryant told Alex Kennedy of the HoopsHype Podcast last week. "Any team."

But what about another back-to-back champion? We're talking about the 2017-18 Golden State Warriors.

‘01 Lakers vs ‘18 Warriors. Who you got?

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This year's Warriors had a similar regular season (58-24), but posted a better offensive rating (113.6) and defensive rating (107.7) than their purple-and-gold counterparts from the start of the century, all while averaging about eight additional possessions per 48 minutes. Golden State shot better from the field (50.3 percent), from beyond the arc (39.7 percent) than Bryant's second title team, but Los Angeles did a better job limiting opponents in both areas. 

We'll never truly know without a time machine that could fit the Warriors' roster, but the current title-holders would have been a heck of a matchup for that Lakers squad.

Who would you pick? Sound off in the comments.

 

Does Kevin Durant sign with Warriors if they win 2016 title? Lacob 'can't say for sure, but...'

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AP

Does Kevin Durant sign with Warriors if they win 2016 title? Lacob 'can't say for sure, but...'

The Warriors did not win the championship in 2016.

It turns out that blowing a 3-1 lead in the Finals may have been a good thing after all.

If the Warriors win the title that year, does Kevin Durant sign with Golden State?

[LISTEN: Subscribe to the Warriors Outsiders Podcast with Drew Shiller and Grant Liffmann]

"I can't say for sure but I do not think he would be on the Warriors," Joe Lacob said on 95.7 The Game on Monday. "If we had won, it just would have been too difficult for him probably -- and I can't say this for sure -- to make that decision. 

"As it is, he got criticized for going to a 73-win team, even though we did not win. That's the way it is. And the players, they listen to all this stuff, too."

Lacob and Draymond are on the same page.

During the 2017 Finals, Draymond told ESPN's Zach Lowe:

"If we win the championship, I'm like 99 percent sure we don't get him. There are silver linings to everything."

In Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, the score was tied at 89 with about 4:40 remaining.

[RELATED: Kyrie Irving explains mental process before hitting game-winning 3-pointer in Game 7 vs Warriors]

"At that exact moment when it was happening ... I remember saying to myself, 'I'm not gonna worry about this, but if we win we win, if we lose -- I'm going after Kevin Durant," Lacob said on Monday as he began laughing.

The Warriors did not score another point and lost 93-89.

So Lacob went after Durant and got him...

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller