Warriors

Real Kevin Durant is under a cloud, and Warriors need him to step out

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AP

Real Kevin Durant is under a cloud, and Warriors need him to step out

OAKLAND -- Stephen Curry and Quinn Cook were the last players off the Warriors' practice floor Tuesday, leaving a few minutes after Kevin Durant, who extended his own grueling session with assistant coach Willie Green.

Durant was dripping sweat as Warriors media relations ace Raymond Ridder tried persuading him to do what he'd so often done since arriving in July 2016: Take a few questions from local reporters.

Durant shook his head and, barely breaking stride, kept walking, into and through the weight room, fading from view.

This is unusual. Allow me to correct myself. It used to be unusual.

The vast majority of the time since KD became a Warrior in July 2016, he has been accessible, cordial, honest and often expansive. He’d share opinions, some on the record and some off. He’d talk basketball, music, sociology, philanthropy and more. His personality -- a blend of common sense, curiosity, awareness and humor, sometimes biting -- was that of the young/old soul sitting by the door to the barbershop.

When I’d give him flak for “flashing your vocabulary,” he’d grin and shrug.

That KD, the engaging KD, is taking a break.

Durant’s postgame comments were gruff for nine days after the squabble with Draymond Green on Nov. 12. And for the next nine weeks, they upgraded to terse. Over the past week, though, Durant has become withdrawn. His teammates and coaches see and feel it, as do those of us who report on the Warriors.

Oh, KD is doing his work, staying productive on the court and leaving it at that. He's also projecting cheerlessness even as Warriors coach Steve Kerr urges players to seek joy. Durant has his reasons for his current mood, and he’s not obligated to share them.

This turn of demeanor coincides with speculation that, upon becoming a free agent in July, he’ll head for New York, to the Knicks, to team with Kyrie Irving in hopes of reviving a rudderless franchise. That speculation has been breathing for months, and Durant is playing it right by not addressing it. In a league where players are exercising power at an all-time high, he gets to decide his next employer.

Warriors president Bob Myers, the team executive closest to Durant, has spent his share of moments over the year trying to mitigate whatever concerns reach his ears. Asked Monday about Durant’s future, Myers was optimistic the 10-time All-Star would remain in the Bay Area.

“I feel like all our players are happy and want to stay with us and continue with us," Myers said. “I feel like we've got a great environment.”

[RELATED: KD to Knicks reportedly more of a Warriors concern]

Maybe Durant will re-sign with the Warriors. He told Yahoo! Sports NBA reporter Chris Haynes in December that he “wanted to make sure I get as much money as I can on my next deal,” which would imply he plans to return. The Warriors can offer the $221 million “supermax” over five years. The most another team can offer is $164 million over four years.

Nineteen months have passed since KD, describing his first year with the Warriors, told me “it just feels like this is where you go when you graduate” from the elementary lessons required upon entering the NBA.

Durant since has earned -- in the truest sense of the word -- two NBA Finals MVP awards. He has been a tremendous player, every bit as good as the Warriors hoped when they sent a seven-man delegation to recruit him to the franchise.

If he leaves, the Warriors will have gotten more than their money’s worth and Durant will have gotten two -- maybe three -- championships.

If he leaves, he will have his reasons and owe nobody an explanation.

If he leaves for New York, he knows he’ll be testing his limits. With an ownership that invites ridicule. With a franchise for which mediocrity would be progress. With a fan base that will expect more than at any time in, oh, about a half-century. And, most of all, he’ll place himself in the firing line of America’s most relentless and ruthless media.

For now, Durant is performing at an All-Star level. He has been better, more efficient and more consistently impactful at both ends, but not all of that is on him. Yes, there are times when he’ll park himself in a corner and become a spectator. There also are times when his teammates seem to forget him until it becomes bail-out time.

[RELATED: Myers explains why Warriors recruit every day]

The Warriors would like to believe their season has another four months to go, that it will in end in June with a third consecutive NBA championship. Meanwhile, they hope Durant can get through whatever is nagging him and become the dude he has been for most of his stay.

And he will, eventually, because natural personality usually returns and because he’s innately empathetic, with a heart wired to be a contributor beyond the scope of basketball.

Ask the people at Positive Tomorrows in Oklahoma City. Or the folks at the University of Texas, where Durant has donated millions, as well as himself, to a school at which he spent one year. Ask the folks at Elizabeth House in Oakland. Or the folks at Durant Center, which he personally opened last month in Prince Georges County, Md. There are more on this list, but you get the point.

Durant has too much to offer to stay blue. He’ll do whatever he needs to bounce back from whatever it is that's robbing him of his warmth and good spirits.

The Warriors only hope it's sooner rather than later and, in the long term, in the Bay Area at Chase Center, rather than New York or anyplace else.

Warriors sign former top pick Dragan Bender to 10-day contract

Warriors sign former top pick Dragan Bender to 10-day contract

The Warriors have filled one of their open roster spots.

Dragan Bender, who was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, siged  a 10-day contract with Golden State, the team announced Sunday.

The potential move was first reported Thursday.

As the Warriors season winds down, they plan to get a look at a number of players.

"I know we have a list of players who we'd like to take a look at," coach Steve Kerr told reporters Tuesday night. "We'll see how that all pans out.

"But there's a good chance that over the last couple months of the season we take a look at some different players. That's the idea."

Bender started the season with the Milwaukee Bucks, but he was waived Feb. 10 after appearing in just seven games.

The 22-year-old did play in 13 G League contests with the Wisconsin Herd, averaging 20.5 points and 8.9 rebounds while shooting over 38 percent from deep.

[RELATED: What Dubs can learn from Cuban's draft advice on Doncic]

His best season was in 2017-18 when he averaged 6.5 points and 4.4 rebounds over 25.2 minutes per game.

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Andrew Wiggins is 'perfect piece' for Warriors, Tim Hardaway believes

Andrew Wiggins is 'perfect piece' for Warriors, Tim Hardaway believes

Ever since Andrew Wiggins arrived in the Bay Area, people have been speculating about his future with the Warriors.

Will they trade him as part of a package to acquire a star like Giannis Antetokounmpo? Is he an integral part of the next phase of the Warriors' dynasty?

Warriors legend Tim Hardaway is a huge fan of the acquisition and believes it'll help the Warriors get back to the top of the NBA next season.

"I think it was," Hardaway told TMZ Sports when asked if acquiring Wiggins was a good move. "Andrew Wiggins is gonna be real nice with them. Yes, he is. Perfect piece, no question!"

The Warriors have had an awful season. Klay Thompson will miss the entire campaign after tearing his ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals last season, Steph Curry broke his hand during the fourth game of the year and has been out ever since.

As a result, the Dubs currently sit at the bottom of the NBA with a 12-44 record. But they traded D'Angelo Russell for Andrew Wiggins and the Minnesota Timberwolves' first-round draft pick in 2021 (top-three protected). The pick becomes unprotected in 2022, which is expected to be the "double draft."

For his part, Wiggins has been brilliant since slipping on a Warriors uniform. In four games with the Dubs, he's averaging 22.7 points per game while shooting 57.9 percent overall and 52.6 percent from 3-point range. He's impressed head coach Steve Kerr who has said he's picked Golden State's offense up faster than anyone Kerr has coached.

Wiggins gets a bad rap because of the massive contract he has, but he still is just 24 years old and has loads of potential. Now free of the T-Wolves' dysfunction, Wiggins can focus not on being the savior of a franchise, but on doing his part and helping the Dubs make the long climb back to the top of the league when Curry and Thompson both are back on the course next season. 

[RELATED: Zion gives Dubs fans chance to dream of fantastical draft future]

This season has been one to forget for the Warriors.

But Hardaway thinks Wiggins is exactly the piece the Warriors need to continue their run of dominance when healthy.

With the early returns, it's hard to argue with the NBA legend,