Warriors

Kevin Durant is at peace: 'I was driving myself crazy'

Kevin Durant is at peace: 'I was driving myself crazy'

OAKLAND -- For nearly 11 months, as he and his team completed a satisfying regular season and perfection through the first three rounds of the playoffs, jabs have been hitting Kevin Durant. He feels them and tries like hell to shake them off.

Mostly, he does.

Durant finally has reached a point, he says, where the jabs leave no lasting bruises or scars. They don’t linger as they did when, even though he understood it was a fruitless pursuit, he was trying to please every man and woman and child on earth.

“I realized it early, but I was still trying to do it,” Durant said in an exclusive interview with NBCBayArea.com. “And I was driving myself crazy, just trying to compromise so much to make everybody happy. It may not be anything huge, you know? But the small things you try to please everyone with end up stacking up until there’s a tipping point."

Durant has been a frequent target since last July 4, when he left the Oklahoma City Thunder, the only franchise he had ever known, to join the Warriors -- exactly five weeks after the Warriors ousted the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals.

The reaction was immediate and largely vitriolic. The most popular athlete in the state of Oklahoma bolted, and the locals wasted little time burning his jerseys and disparaging him in public. More than a few NBA notables dived in with their opinions, slinging jabs and darts. KD is soft. It’s a weak move. Taking the easy road. He can’t take OKC to the top, so he’s joining a team that can take him to the top.

Durant has had to train himself, with assistance from his teammates, not to let it bother him.

Rap helps. Asked recently by Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News to name a song that would describe his first season with the Warriors, Durant mentions Frank Ocean by name but settles upon the Rick Ross tune “Santorini Greece,” which features a searing, angry intro expressing deep frustrations with “haters” of the world.

Yeah, he wants to be liked and loved but he understands there will be those who will line up against him. So there is a barely submerged fury that occasionally spills out, such as when he suggested those fans bored by the Warriors rolling through the postseason didn’t have to watch.

“You can take control of what you want to do and just go from there,” he says. “It’s about learning from all the mistakes and celebrating all the victories.”

[RELATED: Rivers questions Durant's decision: 'From a competitive standpoint...']

So if Doc Rivers, the coach and general manager of the Clippers -- who also pursued Durant when he became a free agent last summer -- wants to keep jabbing, so be it.

If Paul Pierce, the retired star, wants to thump Durant for jumping teams, it’s his prerogative -- never mind that Pierce’s time with the Celtics peaked when they, in a matter of days, added future Hall of Fame players Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

Rivers and Pierce, this week, are the latest to make pointed comments directed at Durant and his decision to come to the Warriors.

Let ‘em talk. Durant is OK if they do. That’s up to them. He doesn’t play with them and definitely doesn’t play for them.

This is made much easier for Durant by being with teammates he enjoys and a franchise that makes him happy. There is not a fraction of an ounce of regret. Indeed, there is a visible joy at the prospect of spending the foreseeable future with the Warriors.

It’s a simple matter of right place, right man and, most definitely, the right time.

“I grew up in the NBA in a culture that taught professionalism,” Durant says. “Things like being on time, putting in hard work, being first in the gym and the last to leave, watching film at home -- all the stuff that grows you into a player. That’s what young players need when they come into the league. They need those stern teachings to learn how to be an NBA player.

“Here . . . it just feels like this is where you go when you graduate from that.”

Though Durant can opt out of his contract this summer and go elsewhere, there is no question he wants to remain with the Warriors. Already intrigued by their style of play, he was seduced by their final recruiting pitch last July and continues to be enamored with the way the Warriors do things.

“It’s loose, and you can apply everything you’ve learned, in my case, from being where I was,” he says. “You add your part into the pie.

“Everybody is different here. It’s not like everybody has to come in at a specific time to work out. It’s not like guys are doing the same things. Everybody has his own routine, and it’s OK if one is different from the other. I feel like everything I’ve learned over the last nine years, I’ve been able to apply here in a different way. It’s just a relaxed environment. Nobody is on your back about anything. They want you to be prepared, but they trust that you’re a professional.”

So don’t be surprised if Durant is a member of a Warriors recruiting group this summer, when it’s time to restock the roster. He’s a willing salesman. And, to hear him tell it, that’s not all.

“I’ve got friends around the league,” he says, grinning.

It sounds, and looks, like a warning to the rest of the NBA.

Warriors find rhythm on road trip with NBA playoffs’ top seed in reach

Warriors find rhythm on road trip with NBA playoffs’ top seed in reach

MINNEAPOLIS — One day after the Warriors lost by more than 30 points to the Boston Celtics in early March, Draymond Green stressed that his team needed to attain three goals during the final stretch of the season: Better execution, improved defense and homecourt advantage throughout the NBA playoffs.

Weeks later, following another embarrassing home loss to the Phoenix Suns, the defending champs seemed to fall short of all three ahead of a strenuous four-game road trip featuring three playoff teams. 

After wrapping up that trip with three wins -- including Tuesday's 117-107 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves -- the Warriors seem to be finding their rhythm at just the right time.

"Great trip," coach Steve Kerr said after the Warriors' win. "To go 3-1 against the caliber of competition with the difficulty of the back-to-back ... really good trip." 

Tuesday's victory encapsulated Green's vision from nearly two weeks ago. Entering the matchup tied with the Denver Nuggets atop the Western Conference, the Warriors had one of their best offensive performances.

They dished out 39 assists to just 13 turnovers, and held the Timberwolves to 40 percent from the field. Stephen Curry, who struggled to find his shot in recent games, scored 22 of his game-high 36 points in the third quarter. 

The win over Minnesota also capped a four-game trip where the Warriors ended the Rockets' nine-game winning streak, and produced their best defensive performance of the season against the Thunder. Plus, they added Andrew Bogut into the fold as DeMarcus Cousins sat with an ankle injury. Over the trip, Golden State held opponents to 41.3 percent from the field and just 29.9 percent from 3-point range. 

Last season, the Warriors finished with a 7-10 record over the last 17 games. They also dealt with injuries to Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, and were locked into the West’s No. 2 seed for much of the final stretch.

After the All-Star break this season, the Warriors lost five of their first nine games. The loss at home to the lowly Suns prompted a different approach on the road. 

"It's definitely a different mindset," Kerr said. "Each game takes on more importance. Last year, I think the final 20 games, we kind of knew we were going to be the two seed, so its a little different this year, and I think it's going to help us." 

In the first game of the trip, Golden State beat Houston behind 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists from Cousins. Three nights later, the Warriors held the Thunder to just 32.3 percent shooting, including a 2-of-16 performance from All-Star guard Russell Westbrook. 

"The first two games were important to us, especially after that Phoenix loss," Durant said Tuesday. "To come out and beat two teams on the road, it was probably the best two-game stretch of the season for us, and we needed that, we needed to feel good about ourselves, going on the plane, going to practice the next day."

[RELATED: Steph hits 300 3-pointers in a season ... again]

Now, with 12 games left in the season, the goals Green laid out following the loss to Boston still are within reach.

Following Tuesday's win, Golden State is a half-game up on Denver for the West's top spot, armed with a tiebreaker and a home matchup April 2. For a team that's won three championships in the last four years, this is familiar territory.

"It's always good to set goals and reach something, but for us, we know exactly where we want to be," Durant said. "We've reached the point twice, and we had fun doing it. We were a two seed last year, and we started off on the road in the Western Conference Finals and won Game 1, so it's about playing great basketball. I think everybody's in a great rhythm, groove, I think that's way more important than trying to get a seed." 

"We know what we're capable of," Curry added. "It's just a matter if we do it on a night-to-night basis."

How Jonas Jerebko came out of hibernation, helped spark Warriors' win

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USATSI

How Jonas Jerebko came out of hibernation, helped spark Warriors' win

After spending much of the past three months in hoops hibernation, Jonas Jerebko resurfaced Tuesday night and reminded the Warriors why they hired him last summer.

The 6-foot-10 forward came off the bench in the second quarter and stunned not only the Minnesota Timberwolves but also the Warriors by lighting up the scoreboard at a level usually reserved for the likes of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

Jerebko took three 3-pointers and made them all. His 4-of-6 shooting from the field and 3-of-3 shooting from the free-throw line translated to 14 points in nine minutes.

Who was that guy?

“I haven’t played him much at all, and the guys were taking a lot of joy from Jonas’ performance,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters after a 117-107 win at Target Center. “He’s just a pro. He comes out there and hasn’t played in about a month and stays ready and does that. That’s why he is who he is.”

Jerebko scored 18 points in 18 minutes -- the first time he hit double figures since Dec. 22, when he rang up a season-high 23 points in a win over the Dallas Mavericks. For someone who hadn’t seen much action, Jerebko's timing and rhythm was flawless.

The Warriors signed Jerebko in hopes of getting some offense off the bench. To be specific, they identified the veteran power forward as someone capable of stretching the floor, making life easier for his teammates.

And for a while, they were getting what they wanted, with Jerebko drilling 37 3-pointers in his first two months as a Warrior.

But he made just 18 triples over the next three months. His shot deserted him, his minutes vanished and he became a cheerleader.

The roles were reversed Tuesday. His teammates were enjoying the Jerebko Show.

“If he knocks down those shots and keeps shooting them with confidence, he builds off that,” Kevin Durant said. “He made his first few. And then he got going. He’s driving to the rim, he’s shooting hook shots. You knock a few shots down, then your confidence is through the roof.”

Jerebko kept busy by putting in work. There were times when he wondered where he fit, if he still fit and whether he’d have another chance. He only knew that if the opportunity came, he would have to produce.

“Stay in the gym,” he said. “Get early to practice, get shots up and work on your conditioning and always stay ready. Control what you can control.

“It helps when you’ve been in the situation before, which I have. I’m confident in my abilities, so like I said, I’ve just got to stay ready and help the team out whenever they need it. That’s all I can do, and tonight was a good night.”

With 12 games remaining in the regular season, the coaching staff is assessing the roster, evaluating individuals and pondering matchups for the playoffs. They believe there will be games when Jerebko can make an impact.

If his shot is falling as it did Tuesday, that would apply to any game and any opponent.

“He fits their system well, and he can shoot the ball well,” Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said. “If you allow him to be comfortable, he’s a difference maker for that team.”

[RELATED: Steph reaches 300 3-pointers in a season for third time]

Not every defense will allow him or anybody else the privilege of comfort. Jerebko knows that. The Warriors know that.

They only hope one comfortable night can lead to a few more in the coming weeks.