Warriors

With latest contract, Kevin Durant helps Warriors now and himself down the line

With latest contract, Kevin Durant helps Warriors now and himself down the line

For the second consecutive year, Kevin Durant has agreed to do a favor for the Warriors.

He also proved once more that, for now, his highest priority is not to extract maximum NBA dollars.

Durant’s decision Saturday to accept a $61.5 million, two-year contract, with a player option in Year 2, provides him maximum control of his future while the Warriors get an immediate financial break.

Durant can’t sign until the moratorium ends Friday, but under this agreement he’ll be paid $30 million, the maximum 20-percent raise over the discounted $25 million deal he signed last July, in 2018-19 with $31.5 million on the table next July.

If he were to sign a three-year contract, with the player option in Year 3, he could have gotten a salary of about $35.3 million in Year 1 -- and the additional $5.3 million would have pushed the Warriors considerably deeper into the luxury tax.

Though the Warriors plan to fill out their roster with minimum contracts and maybe -- maybe -- utilize their $5.38 million taxpayer midlevel exception, Durant’s decision could shave more $25 million from their luxury tax bill.

Co-owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber have to like that.

Durant, however, sets himself up very nicely for next summer. If he declines his option, and there is no reason he wouldn’t, the Warriors would have his full Bird rights, making him eligible to re-sign a five-year pact worth roughly $220 million.

This agreement comes one year after Durant saved Lacob and Guber $9.5 million, ostensibly to help them re-sign veteran free agents Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston

With Iguodala and Livingston are safely in the fold for another year, Durant’s motives were different this time. He still helps the Warriors now, but he really, really helps himself later.

 

Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson struggling in trying times for Warriors

Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson struggling in trying times for Warriors

SAN ANTONIO -- The Warriors have never needed Kevin Durant more than they do now, despite what Draymond Green was quoted as saying last Monday.

They need Klay Thompson to be better, too, even if Thompson seems unconcerned about his offensive inefficiency.

With Stephen Curry and Draymond Green out of the lineup, these are the times when the remaining All-Stars are supposed to take over. Durant and Thompson are the temporary touchstones, leading the way for the rest of the roster.

Instead, Durant and Thompson have been at their worst, propped up by a supporting cast that has done a respectable job.

During a week when the Warriors lost four of five games, including a 104-92 defeat to the Spurs on Sunday, Durant and Thompson can’t seem to find the hoop.

[RELATED: Warriors taste 'real NBA' in Draymond Green-Kevin Durant beef aftermath]

“They’re both trying desperately to help us get going,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We rely on them pretty heavily for scoring, obviously, particularly with Steph out.

“But we’ve got to get back to our team identity, which is great ball movement, really good defense and playing off of misses. Getting out in transition and running, moving the ball and getting great shots. It’s easier said than done, but it’s something we’ve done for many years.

Durant’s last five games on offense: 39.6 percent (44-of-111) from the field, including 14.3 percent (3-of-21) beyond the arc. For the first time in his Warriors career, he shot below 50 percent in five consecutive games.

Thompson’s last five games on offense: 39.7 percent (51-of-116) from the field, including 26 percent (13-of-50) from deep. He has followed four games in which he seems to have found a rhythm -- 54.8 percent overall, 47.8 percent from deep -- with five in which he’s missing even when getting the best looks.

Durant and Thompson on Sunday combined for 51 points -- on 19-of-51 shooting.

“I thought we had some solid looks,” said Durant, who clearly seems bothered by the disruptive events of the week. “We just missed tonight.”

Thompson shrugged off the idea that either man reduces his shooting volume.

“You do the same thing,” he said when asked about it. “You take 51 shots on Wednesday and hope you make 35 of them instead of whatever we made.

“It’s that simple. This isn’t rocket science.”

[RELATED: What we learned in 104-92 road loss to Spurs]

Curry’s absence -- and the constant threat of him scoring from anywhere inside 35 feet -- allows defenses to play tighter on Durant and Thompson. They end up shooting quicker shots, or rushing them, sometimes against contesting defenders.

The Warriors are operating at a higher frequency of possessions with fewer than two passes. Durant believes there is a reason.

“We’re trying to just get good looks,” he said. “I know Warriors basketball is five or six or seven passes in a possession. But we’re not going to get that at this point. It we’re throwing it five or six times, it’s going to end up in a guy’s hands (and he’s) trying to give it back to somebody else.

“So we don’t want to make passes just to make passes, just because it will look good on the stat sheet. We’re trying to find a good shot every time down. Sometimes it might be a quick shot.”

Kerr, naturally, wants more ball movement, under the assumption that it would create easier shots.

“Our team the last few years has been one of the most efficient teams in the history of the league,” Kerr said. “That’s not from going one-on-one. That’s from sharing the ball, the ball moving, everybody trusting each other.

“I admire those guys, trying to get us going. But we’ve got to rely on the whole group. And compete together. That’s extremely rare to see Klay and KD both have tough nights. It’s not going to happen forever.”

If it seems Kerr and Durant are offering conflicting styles, they are, and not for the first time.

Durant is comfortable leaning on pick-and-roll offense. It’s where, as a practically impossible matchup, he can punish defenses. It’s what he feels. Kerr wants the best possible shot, because that’s how a coach thinks.

Truth is, those easier shots are much harder to come by when Curry is not available.

“When Steph’s out of the lineup, the same with Draymond, the ball doesn’t move as much because me and Kevin have to take ownership in scoring,” Thompson said. “We’ve got to do a better job of trusting each other. That’s on me. Move the ball. Be patient.”

Until Durant and Thompson find their offense, no matter how, the Warriors will have a tough time beating even the worst of teams. The other option is waiting for Curry, which in the interim doesn’t help them at all.

Warriors taste 'real NBA' in Draymond Green-Kevin Durant beef aftermath

Warriors taste 'real NBA' in Draymond Green-Kevin Durant beef aftermath

SAN ANTONIO -- It’s a week that will stay with the Warriors for the remainder of this season and for the rest of their careers, following them into retirement.

There was robust discord between two All-Stars, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, that continues to resonate. There was the team leader, Stephen Curry, out of the lineup with an injury but willing to accompany the team on a four-day road trip partly in hopes of restoring a semblance of unity, if not serenity.

There was the designated shooter, Klay Thompson, less than eight months from away free agency, searching for but not finding his touch.

And there were the losses, three in a row, resulting in the team’s first 0-3 road trip since Steve Kerr took over in 2014.

Here is a chronology of the week that was:

MONDAY

The Warriors play the Clippers at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Durant and Thompson are carrying the offense. Green returns after a two-game absence due to a sprained toe. For more than 46 minutes, the Warriors never lead. Montrezl Harrell, LA’s energetic reserve big man, is bossing the paint.

Fourth quarter. The Warriors summon a rally. Down 14 with 6:36 to play, they go on a 19-5 run, tying the game at 106-106 on a Thompson 3-pointer with 1:27 to play.

It's the final 5.6 seconds. Green grabs a rebound with 5.6 seconds on the clock with a chance to win the game. Durant makes an emphatic plea for the ball. Green ignores it. He dribbles into a lost possession, leading to overtime.

Then the dam bursts. Durant snaps at Green. Green snaps back, vociferously and personally. The Warriors come out for overtime and Durant fouls out 74 seconds later. The Warriors run dry and lose by five. The quarrel, with teammates involved, restarts in the locker room.

The flight home is uneasy. Everybody feels the chill. The night is long for every member of the team.

TUESDAY

The Warriors don’t practice before the game against the Atlanta Hawks at Oracle Arena. The majority opinion among players and coaches is that Green’s castigation was out of line. Kerr and general manager Bob Myers meet to discuss the beef, and decide to suspend Green one game “for conduct detrimental to the team.” Based on Green’s salary, it’s a $120,000 penalty.

The Warriors, trailing at the half, ride a strong third quarter to beat the rebuilding Hawks by seven. Green watches from home, irritated but icing his toe. Durant enters the postgame interview room, his face stony, and briefly addresses the subject. He is asked if he thinks the strife could possibly make the team stronger.

“Who knows,” he replies dryly. “We’ll see.”

WEDNESDAY

The Warriors fly to Houston, their first trip there since the Western Conference Finals last May. Green is on the trip. So is Curry, who was not present for the blowup in Los Angeles. Kerr speaks with Green and Durant. The team goes to dinner at a steak house near the hotel. Nobody fights in public.

THURSDAY

The Warriors face the Rockets at Toyota Center. Seven hours before tipoff, Green meets with media, issues a statement on the flap with Durant but takes no questions on it. He says it’s time to move forward.

Golden State takes the floor that night, and get crushed by 21. Green goes scoreless. Durant shoots 6-of-15, Thompson 5-of-16.

Durant is asked about the state his relationship with Green, and says: “Don’t ask me about that again.”

The Warriors board a late-night flight to Dallas.

FRIDAY

The team goes through a light practice without known incident. Green’s sore toe flares up, so Warriors declare him out for the game Saturday in Dallas. 

With Green joining Alfonzo McKinnie and Curry on the sideline, the Warriors summon wing Damion Lee and power forward Marcus Derrickson from the G-League Santa Cruz Warriors.

SATURDAY

The Warriors conduct morning shootaround at American Airlines Arena in Dallas. Kerr discusses the state of the team, reflects on his 15-year career and says all teams go through difficult periods and that it’s normal. Curry does light drills with personal coach Bruce Fraser. The Warriors are hopeful their point guard, healing from a groin injury, can return next week. They need him. Badly.

Curry addresses media before tipoff against the Mavericks. He says he’s progressing well and that he’s “proud” of the way the team is handling the ongoing adversity. He insists that nothing that happens in November, no matter how it looks, is going to derail this team from a deep postseason run that concludes in the NBA Finals.

The Warriors put forth enough effort to hang around, but fade in the fourth quarter and take a three-point loss to the Mavericks. Thompson shoots 9-of-24 and Durant goes 11-of-24. Curry and Green watch from the bench.

Durant sighs when asked about the vibe of the team, and replies: “Are we going to talk about this the whole year?”

SUNDAY

The Warriors arrive at their hotel in San Antonio around 2 a.m. They sleep in. They don’t have a shootaround; they never do on the second night of a back-to-back set. They bus to AT&T Center to face the once fabulous, but now ordinary, Spurs.

The Warriors never lead by more than one point but trail by as much as 18. They look frazzled, at times lost. Durant shoots 8-of-25. Thompson shoots 11-of-26. The Warriors dig down for a fourth-quarter rally, getting within one (91-90) with 3:38 remaining. The Spurs close it with a 13-2 run. The Warriors lose 104-92.

Kerr doesn't run from a question asking if this is his toughest stretch as a coach. 

“Oh, yeah. But I’ve had a dream run for four-and-a-half years,” he says. “We’ve had such a charmed existence the last four seasons. So, yeah, of course, this is the toughest stretch we’ve been in.

“This is the real NBA. We haven’t been in the real NBA the last few years. We’ve been in this dream. So now we’re faced with real adversity. We’ve got to get out of it ourselves.”