Warriors

Joe Lacob still confident Warriors can win NBA Finals despite changes

Joe Lacob still confident Warriors can win NBA Finals despite changes

SAN FRANCISCO – For the many observers dismissing the Warriors as legitimate championship contenders next season, the man at the top of the franchise has a message:

“There are nine or 10 teams that legitimately have a shot, or they think they do,” Warriors CEO Joe Lacob told NBC Sports Bay Area on Tuesday. “That’s great for the league. And we’re one of those teams.”

The Warriors’ five-year run as a favorite to reach the NBA Finals, and likely win it, is over. The general consensus, based on deductive logic, is that they are not among the league’s top five teams but still have what it takes to be among the top 10.

That’s the direct result of losing back-to-back Finals MVP Kevin Durant (to Brooklyn), trading influential veteran Andre Iguodala (to Memphis), reaching a buyout with reliable third guard Shaun Livingston and losing four-time All-Star Klay Thompson for at least the first half of the season as he rehabilitates his surgically repaired ACL.

The remaking of the roster, with combo guard D’Angelo Russell the prize offseason acquisition, has left only three players – Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney – set to enter training camp Sept. 30 with more than one season as a Warrior.

All of which means the first month or two will be as much about training and measuring progress as actually counting victories.

“By All-Star break, we’re going to see where we are,” Lacob said. “I personally have great faith in our coaching staff and our players. I like any team that has Steph, Klay and Draymond. When you add D’Angelo Russell to that, I’ll take that.

"I don’t know of any other team that has more than two All-Stars, and we have four. From that standpoint, we have a shot to be pretty good by the second half of the year.”

A quick check of the 2019 All-Star game rosters supports Lacob’s statement. Several teams have two All-Stars, none has more. Yet the Lakers’ All-Stars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, are widely considered to be among the league’s five best players. The Clippers’ All-Stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are considered among the league’s top 15, at worst.

The 76ers, however, have four potential All-Stars: Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons participated in 2019, and Al Horford and Tobias Harris certainly have the goods to make the team in 2020.

That the Warriors are down two starters and four of the team’s top eight players has only slightly dampened Lacob’s confidence and ambition.

“When he came here, he chose us,” Lacob said of Durant. “We had three great years. Two championships. Three Finals. He chose, for whatever reason – I can’t tell you because I don’t know, exactly – to do something different.

“So, we had to be aggressive about the transition, more aggressive than we might have been otherwise. We were fortunate to get D’Angelo Russell, a 23-year-old All-Star. And all of a sudden, we still have four All-Stars. Maybe not Kevin Durant, but four All-Stars. And we got younger.”

[RELATED: Why Russell thinks joining Warriors will bring out his best]

The Warriors ended the postseason with nine players 28 or older. The current roster has only three players over age 26.

So it’s reasonable to expect trying times – and to believe that, under these conditions, making the playoffs is an achievement and winning a first-round series would be a triumph.

By the time next April rolls around, Lacob himself might see it that way.

What frustrated Kevin Durant most about past feud with Draymond Green

What frustrated Kevin Durant most about past feud with Draymond Green

Yes, we're still talking about the on-court feud between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green when the two were Warriors teammates last season. Actually, Durant still is talking about it. 

The in-game spat that occurred at the end of a game against the Los Angeles Clippers in November 2018, resulted in Green calling KD a "b--ch." KD appeared to say, "That's why I'm out." 

Durant, who signed with the Brooklyn Nets in free agency last offseason, revealed on a recent episode of Showtime's "All the Smoke" podcast with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson that he knew halfway through the 2018-19 season that he was leaving the Warriors

"I knew just about the halfway point through the year," Durant said. "I could feel, you know, the separation between the two. Everybody was just waiting on me to make a decision on free agency -- coaches, to my teammates, to the media -- it's like January and I'm like, 'Yo, I'm just trying to hoop.'"

Durant also went into full detail about what happened between him and Green. Draymond did receive a one-game suspension without pay for his actions, but KD clearly has issues with how Golden state handled the situation.

Here's Durant's in-depth explanation of what transpired (H/T NBC Sports' Dan Feldman). 

That play happened. I was going to grab the rebound. He came and grabbed it. I’m thinking he’s just going to toss it to me, and we’re going to run up court, and I’m going to shoot the shot.

Everybody knew that, and we all figured that would happen. And then when it didn’t, I was kind of shocked. And then I was just, “Whoa, Dray. Let me see that.” Like, “What you doing?” Then he turned it over. And I’m just so confused at that point, because he never, ever did nothing like that before. And everybody on the bench was confused, too. And then when we came back, I just heard him screaming. And I was like, “Hold up.” He’s usually screaming when he comes back to the bench. But what is he saying? Then, he started going off. And I’m just like -- maybe it’s because I was f---ing pissed that he didn’t give me the rock. Because I didn’t say nothing. It was just in my body language. I was just clapping and like, “F--k.”

Then, he started coming off the top with all of that stuff. And I’m just thinking, “Draymond is actually my friend, somebody I can call when I’m going through anything.” Like, “Yo, bro, come through.” Like, “Damn, bro, let’s hang out tonight.” And for him to say that type of s--t to me just threw me for a loop. And I just started isolating myself after that, because I didn’t feel -- they suspended Draymond. But it was just like they had to so it wouldn’t look bad to everybody else. And then nobody talked to me about it or really – we never really came to an agreement. We didn’t voice our opinion -- nobody as a whole -- because it happened in front of the whole team, and nobody really talked about it. It was just swept under the rug. And to me, it was just like, we a family. We’re supposed -- even if he said that, we can move past it. But let’s all talk about it. Let’s just say how we all felt about moment, because that was a huge moment in this whole dynasty. Don’t just sweep it under the rug because we want to win. That’s the reason why we’re not going to win. So, I was just like, “Let’s all talk about this.” It’s not that big of a deal. Just put it out on the table. We can move past it. And when that didn’t happen, I was just like “F--k it. Let me just hoop and worry about myself.”

We all know what Draymond is. It’s fine that you want to do that, that you want to show your emotions and wear them on your sleeve. But when it’s over the line sometimes, let’s just talk about it, so next time you can tone it down just a bit. And I feel like we didn’t have an opportunity to do so. Because we were so focused on just trying to move forward and win. And I get that, too. But if we’re a family ...

We done won two chips together, it’s bigger than -- this some s--t we can sit down and talk about.

Me and him sat down and talked about it, and we kind of, I gave him my piece on it. He told me how he felt on it. But it happened in front of the whole team. So, everybody got to talk about it. We know, s--t, turnovers happen. S--t happens.

That's the most thorough explanation that we have heard of the events during and after the game. What's done is done, though. Durant now plays for Brooklyn, which created a domino effect of the Warriors eventually acquiring Andrew Wiggins from the Minnesota Timberwolves at the NBA trade deadline. 

[RELATED: Durant believes he became Bay Area legend with Warriors]

As KD rehabs from a ruptured Achilles he sustained in the NBA Finals as a member of the Warriors, his Nets are fighting for playoff seeding. On the other side of the country, the Warriors (12-43) have the worst record in the NBA at the All-Star break. 

Next season, however, will look much different for both teams.

Giannis' NBA All-Star Game block on LeBron James had Steph Curry hyped

Giannis' NBA All-Star Game block on LeBron James had Steph Curry hyped

Here's a sentence I didn't think I would write Sunday: Officiating decisions in the NBA All-Star Game brought out plenty of passion.

Not just for degenerate gamblers, mind you. The NBA's format change, where the winner had to score 24 more points (in honor of Kobe Bryant) in the fourth quarter than the leading score of the third, led to one of the best finishes to an All-Star Game in recent memory. The All-Stars brought it on defense, with Kyle Lowry drawing multiple offensive fouls. The intensity was perhaps best defined by Giannis Antetokounmpo guarding fellow All-Star captain and namesake LeBron James in isolation. 

Antetokounmpo's block on James originally was ruled a goaltend, prompting vehement disagreement from injured Warriors star Steph Curry watching with his wife Ayesha on vacation. Steph's reaction, posted on Ayesha's Instagram story, was catnip for Giannis-to-the-Warriors truthers. 

"Review it!" Curry, who played for Team Giannis in the 2019 NBA All-Star Game, shouted. "That's not goaltending!"

Curry hasn't played since breaking his left hand just before Halloween, but the two-time MVP sent Warriors fans into a speculative frenzy when he appeared to say "Let's do it" to Antetokounmpo after the Bucks beat the Dubs at Chase Center last month. Curry insisted he wasn't recruiting another lanky swingman, telling Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes he talked to Antetokounmpo about playing "Player Unknown's Battlegrounds."

Antetokounmpo, in case you haven't heard, can become an unrestricted free agent in 2021. Teams reportedly already are clearing the decks ahead of his free agency, including the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors. NBC Sports Bay Area's Monte Poole wrote last month that the Warriors will be among the Greek superstar's suitors and do all they can to clear enough salary-cap space beforehand. 

[RELATED: Siakam jokes about Raps' anti-Steph defense in All-Star Game]

There are hurdles to clear. The Warriors already have four players (Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins) signed to max contracts, for one. They can't exactly bet on the same salary-cap spike that left enough room to sign Kevin Durant in 2016, either, considering the league's television contracts are a half-decade away from expiring and commissioner Adam Silver said the NBA expects to lose "hundreds of millions" of dollars from China's backlash to Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's support of Hong Kong protestors. 

Still, after seeing Sunday's shockingly competitive fourth quarter (this was an All-Star Game, after all), anything is possible in the NBA.