Warriors

So far this season, Durant thriving for Warriors when it matters most

So far this season, Durant thriving for Warriors when it matters most

Programming note: Warriors-Nuggets coverage starts tonight at 5pm with Warriors Pregame Live on CSN Bay Area, and streaming live right here.

Through the venom sprayed upon Kevin Durant by fans in Oklahoma City, as well as the goading of his former Thunder teammates, we learned Durant is in a better place than he has ever been, and with more self-belief than he has ever known.

Once justifiably considered vulnerable in psychological warfare, he is, at 28, exceedingly difficult to knock off his game.

In the five most emotionally challenging games for Durant as a Warrior -- the Thunder three times, LeBron James and the Cavaliers, twice -- he was as ruthless as he was efficient: 34.0 points, 60-percent from the field, including 51.3 percent from deep; 93.7 percent from the line; 9.8 rebounds.

That Durant finds another level in games that mean the most implies he has found a degree of certitude that bodes well for the Warriors in the postseason.

The way Durant coped with the weekend hostilities at Chesapeake Energy Arena was, for the most part, letter perfect. His greatest failures Saturday night were in his actions on the court, specifically getting caught up in machismo contests with former Thunder teammates Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson. Westbrook and Roberson acted as instigators, and Durant let himself get dragged into the skits.

As for the nightlong shout show put on by mostly adult fans, some of which surely feel jilted by his departure last summer, while others seemed to be looking for a room in which to scream insults, Durant took a complete detour.

Warriors forward Draymond Green got caught up in it. As he walked toward the scorer’s table to reenter the game, one local superfan sitting courtside, near the Warriors bench, shouted, “Don’t kick anybody.”

Green glanced back over his shoulder and said, “I’m gonna kick you.”

Shortly thereafter, as officials gathered to review whether Roberson was overly aggressive in hacking Durant, that same fan couldn’t help diving into the proceedings. As players from both teams awaited the verdict -- it was ruled a common foul -- the fan was standing and pointing and shouting and, according to Green, firing off a stream of insults with a perceived racial edge.

It was intense enough to compel several cops to intervene.

Intense enough that Andre Iguodala, clearly agitated, demanded for an ejection of the fan and was highly indignant when the cops did not.

Durant spent those moments of madness sitting on the scorer’s table observing, with no more reaction than a grin and lift of a brow. He was locked in. May as well have closed his eyes and indulged in an inspirational chant.

This is not, according to Durant and those who have spent time around him, who Durant has always been. He came to the Warriors with a reputation for being relatively sensitive, even thin-skinned, as if he sought approval. The implication was that he was a slave to the burnishing of his image and that anything considered contradictory was to be refuted, if not expunged.

That Kevin Durant seemed to be truly worried about what others thought of him, which would have made him compromised prey for the howling predators in the arena. The old KD might have wilted, if not visibly then perhaps internally.

The Kevin Durant we’ve seen this season has dropped that vibe. Burned it. He vowed during the preseason to stop homogenizing and just “be real.”

He is content with himself, he says, and all signs suggest there is truth to this.

Understand, Durant still has connections in the Oklahoma City area. He remains involved in the community. He continues to give. He credits OKC at most every turn. The old KD easily could have moped and questioned his commitment and been offended by their fickleness.

How could they turn on me? Don’t they know what I’ve done around here? Is there a way I could get a refund on that $1 million donation to the American Red Cross for tornado relief?

Instead, Durant sailed through the evening, posting team-highs in points (34) and rebounds (nine) and never once engaging the furious masses.

He eventually applied the proverbial dagger, staring down Westbrook and draining a 3-pointer from 28 feet, cooling an OKC rally and giving the Warriors a 123-104 lead with 3:40 remaining.

So when Durant said he harbored no ill will toward the fans, that they were amazing and brought nothing unexpected, it was believable. When claimed to be unbothered by his ex-teammates, that, too was believable.

Maybe everything that was thrown at him bounced off, if he felt anything at all.

Pat McCaw, Warriors still waiting each other out before training camp

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USATSI

Pat McCaw, Warriors still waiting each other out before training camp

Counting down the hours until training camp begins Tuesday, there is only one unresolved issue immediately facing the Warriors.

Guard Pat McCaw, a restricted free agent considered part of the team’s future, still has not accepted the $1.74 million qualifying offer the Warriors presented more than 12 weeks ago.

By extending the deal, the Warriors indicated they still want McCaw on the roster.

McCaw last season indicated a desire to return for a third season, something his father, Jeff, reiterated in an interview this week with the San Francisco Chronicle.

The lack of McCaw’s signature on a contract was not a concern in July or August. But with summer coming to a close, his absence leaves the Warriors wondering if he still wants to explore other options while also forcing them to prepare to do the same.

This is not what the Warriors wanted, nor is it what McCaw needs.

The biggest problem facing McCaw is that he was far less effective last season than he was a rookie. It was after his first season that veteran wing Andre Iguodala, speaking at the championship celebration in Oakland, identified McCaw as his potential replacement.

Was Iguodala joking? Yes. And no.

McCaw as a rookie showed smarts, instincts and a fearlessness that belied his 21 years. His shot was decent, with plenty of room to improve. His defense was solid, revealing an aptitude for reading angles and anticipating, an obvious asset for someone with such a rail-thin physique.

McCaw in Year 2 struggled with his shot. He finished at 28.3 percent from deep and 40.9 percent overall. His movements on the court became uncertain. And then, last March 31, he sustained a terrifying injury that sent him to the hospital by ambulance for an overnight stay and kept him on the sideline for nearly two months.

All those forces combined to depress McCaw’s market value and, therefore, punch a hole in thoughts of leverage.

Which makes the summer inactivity kind of puzzling. The Warriors have been patient, awaiting McCaw’s signature. McCaw has been waiting, presumably, for a team to come along offering something better, after which he would find out just how much the Warriors want him to come back.

That deal has not materialized. After experiencing a flurry of offer sheets and signings in July, the NBA quickly settled into a soft market by August. It has remained soft in September.

Nobody is shopping, and that won’t change unless someone, somewhere, gets hurt and a team suddenly needs a young wing with potential.

When the Warriors released their camp roster on Thursday, McCaw’s name was not on the list. It can’t be, because he is unsigned.

Which leaves two young wings thinking they have a shot to make the roster. Danuel House, a fabulous athlete, is coming on a non-guaranteed deal. Damion Lee, who snagged a two-way contract, also is on the list.

McCaw still has the edge, because his contract would be guaranteed. Unless or until he signs, however, that’s irrelevant.

Meanwhile, he waits. And so do the Warriors. The clock that was relatively quiet all summer is now ticking louder by the day.

Klay Thompson: Warriors training camp profile

Klay Thompson: Warriors training camp profile

The Bulls did it twice, with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen leading the way. The Lakers accomplished it once, behind Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. In the 42 seasons since the NBA-ABA merger, those are the only franchises to win three consecutive NBA Finals.

When the Warriors come together for training camp on Sept. 25, their goal is to become the third.

Here is a look at those players with guaranteed roster spots.

13TH IN A SERIES

Player: Klay Thompson
Position: Shooting guard
Height/weight: 6-7, 215
College: Washington State
Age: 28
Salary: $18.99M (final year of a four-year pact worth $68.98M one-year minimum deal, guaranteed, per Spotrac)
NBA 2K Player Rating: 89

2017-18 in review: For the first time in Thompson’s seven-year career, he played less than 90 percent of the schedule and his scoring average did not increase. What did improve was his shot selection. He attempted the fewest field goals since 2013-14 while posting career-high percentages. Though he was fairly consistent, Thompson managed to have sizzling quarters without delivering one of his trademark nuclear games. Considering his defense remained strong, he remains perhaps the top two-way SG.

Key stats: 73 games (73 starts), averaging 20.0 points (58.8 percent FG, 44.0 percent 3p, 83.7 percent FT), 3.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 34.3 minutes.

Season highs: Points (38), rebounds (10, twice), assists (six), minutes (42).

2018-19 outlook: Thompson’s scoring is wanted, his defense needed. The Warriors can do a better job of feeding him when he’s rolling on offense. He enters each season stating the goal of getting to the foul line more frequently, and there remains plenty of room for improvement there. This being the final season of his contract, it’s worth watching to see if he goes out of character or remains as metronomic as ever, with zero need for maintenance.