Warriors

If Durant really did spurn LeBron, the Warriors are better off than they could have ever imagined

If Durant really did spurn LeBron, the Warriors are better off than they could have ever imagined

It wasn’t long ago that the Warriors aspired to be the Spurs, playoff regulars with a regal culture and an unshakeable core, consistently contending for championships.

It’s now apparent, as Kawhi Leonard tries to strong-arm his way out of San Antonio, that the Warriors’ potential is higher than the Spurs ever was.

The latest indicator is Kevin Durant reportedly declining an invitation to join LeBron James in Los Angeles, playing for the Lakers.

The notion that LeBron attempted to recruit KD, reported by ESPN, is entirely conceivable. Superstars communicate with superstars, and no player in the NBA values his clout more than James.

The notion that Durant, who has a solid relationship with James, could be recruited at this time is utterly inconceivable.

KD is not leaving the Warriors for the Lakers, even if LeBron is offering partnership as the lure.

Let that sink in for a moment. Not the part about LeBron being the lure but the part about not leaving the Warriors for the Lakers.

If the Spurs were the league’s royal standard, the Lakers were its dreamiest team, winning titles at an astonishing clip while also boasting more delightful fringe benefits than any franchise in the league. For most of the last half century, playing for the Lakers in Los Angeles was the player’s paradise.

Playing for the Warriors was, meanwhile, pure punishment, the league’s version of toiling in a dark, damp closet. The Warriors were where players landed, with a thud, when “real” teams had no interest.

Nobody, including a fresh-faced college kid named, Stephen Curry, wanted to come to the Warriors.

And now nobody, including an older and more mature Curry, wants to leave.

Though Durant will become a free agent this weekend, he is ready to decline overtures from LeBron or anybody else that comes calling. We know this not only because he has consistently stated his intention to return but also because of what he has said over the past 18 months.

Durant has told us on several occasions, in several ways, that the Warriors feel like the right place for anybody who cares about winning and having fun and being free to be who they are. It is, in short, a community, a place where all doors are open, all ears are listening and all rooms are warm.

That’s where the Warriors, under general manager Bob Myers and coach Steve Kerr, deviate from the Spurs model.

The Spurs are run like a high-level government agency. They have policies and all is good as as long as everybody follows them. Gregg Popovich is a good man and a great coach, but at the root of his steely leadership is a militaristic element. He’s the unquestioned general, with leaders acting as lieutenants.

There is, above all, a conformity that requires discipline and devotion. Thick skin, too. Not everybody is cut out for the Spurs Way. Jonathon Simmons was not, and it seems Leonard has had enough.

The Warriors have been there, but for different reasons. The list of those who at one point or another wanted out -- all under previous regimes -- includes Chris Webber, Larry Hughes, Jason Richardson, Stephen Jackson and Monta Ellis.

And now the Warriors are the place where players want to be. Nick Young wanted to join. Jamal Crawford would love to join. JaVale McGee says he wants to come back. The Warriors know they’ll be giving out a lot of minimum contracts, and they also know there will be players eager to take it.

This culture, the one that has sold Durant, is largely a product of Kerr’s ability to read a room, his understanding the need for joy and his willingness to engage in respectful dialogue with every player and coach.

Though the Warriors must remain among the elite for many years before they can claim to stand beside the Spurs, winning three championships in four years has put them ahead of San Antonio’s pace.

If a Warriors superstar is willing to turn his back on a chance to join another superstar with the Lakers, the Warriors are better off than even they could have imagined.

If you’re the Warriors, you welcome a Lakers revival. You crave it because you’re equipped to compete. And because it’s your chance to prove there’s a new paradise in the NBA.

Pat McCaw, Warriors still waiting each other out before training camp

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USATSI

Pat McCaw, Warriors still waiting each other out before training camp

Counting down the hours until training camp begins Tuesday, there is only one unresolved issue immediately facing the Warriors.

Guard Pat McCaw, a restricted free agent considered part of the team’s future, still has not accepted the $1.74 million qualifying offer the Warriors presented more than 12 weeks ago.

By extending the deal, the Warriors indicated they still want McCaw on the roster.

McCaw last season indicated a desire to return for a third season, something his father, Jeff, reiterated in an interview this week with the San Francisco Chronicle.

The lack of McCaw’s signature on a contract was not a concern in July or August. But with summer coming to a close, his absence leaves the Warriors wondering if he still wants to explore other options while also forcing them to prepare to do the same.

This is not what the Warriors wanted, nor is it what McCaw needs.

The biggest problem facing McCaw is that he was far less effective last season than he was a rookie. It was after his first season that veteran wing Andre Iguodala, speaking at the championship celebration in Oakland, identified McCaw as his potential replacement.

Was Iguodala joking? Yes. And no.

McCaw as a rookie showed smarts, instincts and a fearlessness that belied his 21 years. His shot was decent, with plenty of room to improve. His defense was solid, revealing an aptitude for reading angles and anticipating, an obvious asset for someone with such a rail-thin physique.

McCaw in Year 2 struggled with his shot. He finished at 28.3 percent from deep and 40.9 percent overall. His movements on the court became uncertain. And then, last March 31, he sustained a terrifying injury that sent him to the hospital by ambulance for an overnight stay and kept him on the sideline for nearly two months.

All those forces combined to depress McCaw’s market value and, therefore, punch a hole in thoughts of leverage.

Which makes the summer inactivity kind of puzzling. The Warriors have been patient, awaiting McCaw’s signature. McCaw has been waiting, presumably, for a team to come along offering something better, after which he would find out just how much the Warriors want him to come back.

That deal has not materialized. After experiencing a flurry of offer sheets and signings in July, the NBA quickly settled into a soft market by August. It has remained soft in September.

Nobody is shopping, and that won’t change unless someone, somewhere, gets hurt and a team suddenly needs a young wing with potential.

When the Warriors released their camp roster on Thursday, McCaw’s name was not on the list. It can’t be, because he is unsigned.

Which leaves two young wings thinking they have a shot to make the roster. Danuel House, a fabulous athlete, is coming on a non-guaranteed deal. Damion Lee, who snagged a two-way contract, also is on the list.

McCaw still has the edge, because his contract would be guaranteed. Unless or until he signs, however, that’s irrelevant.

Meanwhile, he waits. And so do the Warriors. The clock that was relatively quiet all summer is now ticking louder by the day.

Klay Thompson: Warriors training camp profile

Klay Thompson: Warriors training camp profile

The Bulls did it twice, with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen leading the way. The Lakers accomplished it once, behind Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. In the 42 seasons since the NBA-ABA merger, those are the only franchises to win three consecutive NBA Finals.

When the Warriors come together for training camp on Sept. 25, their goal is to become the third.

Here is a look at those players with guaranteed roster spots.

13TH IN A SERIES

Player: Klay Thompson
Position: Shooting guard
Height/weight: 6-7, 215
College: Washington State
Age: 28
Salary: $18.99M (final year of a four-year pact worth $68.98M one-year minimum deal, guaranteed, per Spotrac)
NBA 2K Player Rating: 89

2017-18 in review: For the first time in Thompson’s seven-year career, he played less than 90 percent of the schedule and his scoring average did not increase. What did improve was his shot selection. He attempted the fewest field goals since 2013-14 while posting career-high percentages. Though he was fairly consistent, Thompson managed to have sizzling quarters without delivering one of his trademark nuclear games. Considering his defense remained strong, he remains perhaps the top two-way SG.

Key stats: 73 games (73 starts), averaging 20.0 points (58.8 percent FG, 44.0 percent 3p, 83.7 percent FT), 3.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 34.3 minutes.

Season highs: Points (38), rebounds (10, twice), assists (six), minutes (42).

2018-19 outlook: Thompson’s scoring is wanted, his defense needed. The Warriors can do a better job of feeding him when he’s rolling on offense. He enters each season stating the goal of getting to the foul line more frequently, and there remains plenty of room for improvement there. This being the final season of his contract, it’s worth watching to see if he goes out of character or remains as metronomic as ever, with zero need for maintenance.