Warriors

Kevin Durant bets on himself, friends in decision to sign with Nets

Kevin Durant bets on himself, friends in decision to sign with Nets

Three weeks ago, Kevin Durant walked out of Toronto's Scotiabank Arena on crutches, his freshly torn Achilles secured in a boot, into an offseason of uncertainty. 

The Warriors -- who were armed with a five-year, $221 million max contract offer -- offered familiar faces, championship fabric and the chance to open a brand-new building in San Francisco during his rehab. Durant's alternative route entailed a new team and $57 million less in his bank account, but with the chance to bet on himself alongside a roster in which he has a say.

Durant chose the latter Sunday, opting to sign with the Brooklyn Nets for a reported $164 million over four years. The decision will link him with All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, who agreed to sign with the Nets hours earlier, and big man DeAndre Jordan, who reportedly will move over from the Knicks. Durant is close friends with both men. 

Three years ago, Durant chose to head West, spurning Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder to join a ready-made contender with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green in Oakland. Now he chosen to help build a contender from scratch.

The Nets have made the second round of the playoffs only once in the past 12 seasons, and are known more for mortgaging their draft future for an aging core of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Deron Williams. Now, with Durant, Irving, Jordan and Chris Levert, Brooklyn could rule the Eastern Conference.

However, a caveat to those plans rests in Durant's right leg. His torn Achilles is expected to keep him out for the rest of next season and could have a lingering effect on the rest of his career. While the injury didn't scare teams -- including the Warriors -- from offering him a max deal under the collective bargaining agreement, a return from such an injury historically hasn't been fruitful for NBA players. 

Speculation of Durant's departure started six months ago, during the Warriors' first media availability of the season, when he said he’d enter free agency. Speculation even fueled an on-court argument between Durant and Draymond Green, who reportedly told his teammate that the Warriors could continue their dynasty without him. Adding to the angst, many within the organization were resigned to the possibility Durant inevitably would leave following the season, perhaps to the Nets' Big Apple rivals, the New York Knicks. Additionally, a 24-hour news cycle brought intense scrutiny from TV personalities and writers alike.

I never had this before,” Durant told NBC Sports Bay Area in April. “This is a totally new experience. I never had so many people that come to me and ask about where I should play. And there’s nothing wrong with it. But don’t get mad when I talk about it. Don’t get mad when you’re speculating, when you’re in your own head about something that I had said nothing about.”

“They need me,” Durant added. “If I wasn’t a free agent, none of this s--t would go on, right? None of this speculation about who I am, what’s wrong with my mental, why I’m miserable, why I ain’t happy with life. Nothing.”

[RELATED: Warriors could land D'Angelo Russell in KD sign-and-trade]

Now Durant will take his talents to Brooklyn, but he leaves as one of the best players in Warriors history. His addition in 2016 brought the franchise two NBA titles in three seasons, building a dynasty in the process.

But with the Nets -- injuries and friends included -- Durant has the opportunity to build a champion on his terms.

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 114-95 win over Grizzlies

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 114-95 win over Grizzlies

BOX SCORE

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- For much of the season, the Warriors have been searching for a complete performance amid an unusual amount of injuries. 

They achieved that goal Friday evening, beating the Memphis Grizzlies 114-95 at FedEx Forum with nine inactive players. 

In its best performance of the season, the Warriors used a big second quarter to blow the game open. Rookie Eric Paschall finished with 17 points, aiding an offense carried by Alec Burks, finishing off an impressive bounce-back performance after losing to New Orleans Sunday evening.

Here are the takeaways from Tuesday night 

Alec Burks

After signing a one-year deal last summer, Burks has used his time with the Warriors to revitalize a once-promising career. On Tuesday, he continued towards that goal, scoring 29 points and grabbing eight rebounds in 36 minutes. 

Despite missing all of training camp with an ankle injury, Burks has become a dependable scorer, averaging 13.5 points through 11 games. Two weeks ago in Houston, he scored 28 points, adding eight rebounds, showing his promise. 

Burks seemed destined for big things after the Jazz selected him No. 12 overall in the 2011 NBA Draft. Through his first five seasons, he averaged 10.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. However, a series of stress fractures limited Burks to just 100 games from 2014 through 2016, and he has not played in more than 75 games in a season since 2013-14. 

But if he continues to play at his current level, he could not only revitalize his career, but play his way into a lucrative deal.   

Defense

Keeping with a recent trend, the Warriors were stout defensively Friday evening, holding the Grizzlies to just 40 percent from the field and forcing 14 turnovers. 

Grizzlies Rookie of the Year candidate Ja Morant struggled all night, making just 7-of-20 from the field as the Warriors diversified its defensive sets for most of the night. On occasion, they'd switch from a traditional man-to-man sets to a 2-3 zone. 

The performance is on par with Golden State's output of late. Entering Tuesday, the team allowed teams to shoot just 41.1 percent over their last two outings. 

While the Warriors have shown improvement, Tuesday's performance did highlight the team's need for a frontcourt presence as the Grizzlies outscored them 52-46 in the paint.

[RELATED: Looney, Smailagic clearned for on-court work]

Second-quarter magic

For years, the Warriors have used big runs to blow games wide open. Despite not having most of its All-Star core, Golden State gave a glimpse of the past. 

After Memphis took a two-point lead following the first quarter, Golden State outscored Memphis 33-16 in the second quarter. Alec Burks scored 10 of his game-high 29 points as the Warriors held Memphis to just 36 percent in the first half. 

Following Tuesday's shootaround, Warriors coach Steve Kerr cited that the team is finally getting comfortable playing with each other despite Golden State's myriad of injuries. If the team can keep up the recent trend, it will bode well for their development as its stars rehab.

Warriors' Kevon Looney, Alen Smailagic cleared for on-court workouts

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USATSI

Warriors' Kevon Looney, Alen Smailagic cleared for on-court workouts

MEMPHIS -- After injuries ravaged the Warriors' roster during the first month of the season, the team got a bit of good news Tuesday. 

Big men Kevon Looney and Alen Smailagic have been cleared for accelerated on-court workouts, while guard Jacob Evans will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

As the Warriors continue their four-game road trip, Looney and Smailagic are expected to participate in practices with the Warriors' G League team in Santa Cruz.

While nothing is set in stone, Warriors coach Steve Kerr didn't rule Looney out of next Monday's game against Oklahoma City.

The injuries updates come as the Warriors are in peril. In the last month,  Stephen Curry broke his hand, sidelining him until at least February, while two-way guard Damion Jones fractured his hand last week. In Tuesday's injury report, seven Warriors were listed as 'out,' including guard Klay Thompson. 

Looney, who was dealing with a neuropathic issue in his hamstring, carries the most importance. In the past two seasons, the multifaceted defender helped Golden State reach the NBA Finals. In his absence, the Warriors are giving up more than 120 points per game.

[RELATED: Bowman must adapt when Warriors are healthy]

Meanwhile, Evans was showing signs of progress following a tough rookie season, shooting 50 percent from the 3-point range before a left adductor sidelined him on Oct. 28. 

As for Smailagic, the rookie was expected to contribute right away with the Warriors undermanned frontline before spraining his ankle in a training camp scrimmage. In the last week, Kerr said the 19-year old told his coach he dunked during practice, showing his recent progress.