Warriors

With MVP hardware in hand, Durant silences critics

With MVP hardware in hand, Durant silences critics

OAKLAND -- You won’t find a “Win 1 for KD” t-shirt for sale on the internet. The 10-year-NBA vet did everything in his power to deliver the Oklahoma City Thunder to the promise land and when he couldn’t get over the hump, he took his talents to the Bay Area.

It’s not a fairy tale outcome for the good people of OKC and the Cleveland is probably feeling the burn right about now as well. Durant had to do what he had to do to win a ring. But how often does a player join the best team in the world and become the best player on that team?

“I hear all the narratives throughout the season,” Durant said following the Warriors 129-120 win over the Cavs Monday night. “That I hopping on bandwagons, that I was letting everybody else do the work. But that was far from the truth. I came in, I tried to help my team, I tried to be myself, be aggressive.”

Durant hoisted his first career Larry O’Brien Monday night in front of a packed house of adoring Warriors fans decked out in yellow. He was also handed the Bill Russell Trophy as the Finals MVP.

He finished the clinching Game 5 with a team-high 39-points, giving him 30 or more in all five Finals games. Durant added seven rebounds and five assists in 40 minutes of action and shot an impressive 14-of-20 from the field.

No coattail riding for Durant. He hit the big shots. He carried his team through the downtimes and all while guarding LeBron James for much of his time on the floor. In a sea of superstar players, he quietly dominated throughout the playoffs and all the way to his first championship.

“Kevin is always an afterthought for everybody,” assistant coach Mike Brown said. “Which is too bad, because Kevin, if he’s not the best player in the world, obviously he’s one of the top three. To see him perform at the level that he did on this stage during this series was fantastic. That’s who he is and be careful, because he’s going to be around for a long time.”

With Durant in tow, plenty of other players took a backseat for Golden State. But it’s a family behind the scenes. Everyone has a role and after losing the championship to the Cavs last season, the Warriors understood they needed another piece to their puzzle.

“We knew, bringing KD here, filling the gap that needed to be filled,” Draymond Green said from the Warriors champagne soaked locker room. “You feel like there’s a chink in the armor, you try to fill that. We did that. We’re Champs.”

Best player. Best team. Finals MVP. Kevin Durant.

Durant took a gamble. He took plenty of grief for doing so, but he’s no different than so many other. Karl Malone didn’t finish his career with the Utah Jazz, he joined Gary Payton in LA trying to get a ring with Shaq and Kobe. Charles Barkley tried to sneak in a ring with the Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston. Even LeBron James had to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to get his first trophy.

This isn’t a new concept. Durant isn’t a sellout. He was a free agent and he took the best opportunity to win. To judge him for that decision is naive.

“It’s a team sport,” Durant said. “You’ve got to want to sacrifice, you’ve got to want to put your teammates in front of yourself sometimes and I just tried to do that.”

The 28-year-old forward has plenty of time to cement his legacy in the league. For now, he’s found a home with a talented group of unselfish players. If he sticks around long term, this likely won’t be the last time he’s standing on a stage at season’s end being pelted with confetti.

“It feels amazing to win a championship with these guys, I can’t wait to celebrate with these guys for the rest of the night...well, maybe the rest of the summer,” Durant said.

Durant has a $27 million player option for next season with the Warriors. They’ll have a tough time piecing together a dynasty with four All-Star level players in their prime, but they’ll give it a shot. If they can keep this group together, this might go down as one of the league’s great teams.

Why Kevin Durant thought Warriors' loss to Mavericks 'not odd at all'

Why Kevin Durant thought Warriors' loss to Mavericks 'not odd at all'

Saturday was a night to forget for the Warriors.

The 126-91 loss to the lottery-bound Dallas Mavericks was the Warriors' worst at Oracle Arena under coach Steve Kerr. Golden State, without Steph Curry and chasing the Western Conference's top seed, weren't even close to the West's second-worst team.

If that sounds out of the ordinary for an NBA Finals contender, Kevin Durant doesn't think so.

"It's not odd at all," Durant told reporters in Oakland after the loss on Saturday (via ESPN). "I think everybody in that locker room has gotten their asses beat at home before. I know this experience is different, how much winning we've done the last few years. But we're still in the NBA; guys have been a part of terrible games, along with the great games, as well. The good thing about it, we play tomorrow night too."

The Warriors were short-handed, and lopsided losses do happen to good -- even great -- teams. But wasn't Golden State supposed to have already turned this corner?

They weren't blown out on March 10, but the Warriors lost to the Zion-Williamson-contending Phoenix Suns on that date. Golden State wasn't missing any regulars as was the case on Saturday, and the team said all the right things about that being a necessary wake-up call headed into a successful road trip.

"The first two games were important to us, especially after that Phoenix loss," Durant said on March 19. "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: Quinn Cook, Austin Rivers agree on worst NBA road city]

The grind and ensuing malaise of an 82-game season real, especially for a team that has played as many games as Golden State has in the last five years. Plus, the Warriors battled injuries and struggled mightly down the stretch of the regular season last year ... and still won their third championship in four seasons.

In other words, a March loss to the Mavericks might not mean all that much if the Warriors lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy once again. But if they don't, Durant might look back on it as a defeat that was odd, after all.

Quinn Cook, Austin Rivers agree that Cleveland is worst NBA road city

Quinn Cook, Austin Rivers agree that Cleveland is worst NBA road city

The verdict is in. Cleveland doesn't rock.

In fact, Cleveland sucks, according to Warriors guard Quinn Cook and Rockets guard Austin Rivers.

Why?

"My family is there, they're calling me all the time, it's muggy and it's cold," Cook told Warriors sideline reporter Kerith Burke and Rivers on The Uninterrupted Road Trippin' podcast.

Cook's first professional contract actually came with the Cavs. After he went undrafted out of Duke in 2015, Cleveland signed him to a contract in September of that year. A month later, they waived him.

Why does Rivers hate Cleveland?

"It's just always freezing there," Rivers said. "And if you're there a day in between, which teams don't even do anymore, like you guys are staying here [in Houston] right now so you guys don't have to go to OKC for two days. There's nothing to do. What do you do?"

[RELATED: Rivers on how Curry transformed NBA]

Cook may not like the city of Cleveland, but his greatest professional accomplishment occurred there last June when he won an NBA championship with the Warriors.

You can hear the rest of Rivers, Cook and Burke's conversation on Road Trippin' in the player below, and subscribe here.