Warriors

Warriors prepare for increased scrutiny; Durant curt and brief

Warriors prepare for increased scrutiny; Durant curt and brief

SAN DIEGO – At every stop on the road and occasionally when they’re at home in Oakland, the Warriors will confront not only the opponent but also at least two other potentially disruptive forces.

There will be venom from fans and maybe a few players who have targeted the Warriors, after adding Kevin Durant to a team with four All-Stars, as the NBA’s version of the Evil Empire.

Being tossed into such a role might even motivate the Warriors.

And then there is the intense, unrelenting spotlight that comes with being the league’s “it” team. Every move will be monitored, every word dissected in search of a sound bite, and every sign of body language will be analyzed in search of meaning.

Being thrust into such a position could very easily become annoying and, ultimately, a much more corrosive element for a team with such accomplished players.

The regular season is eight days away, and already forward Draymond Green has addressed his tumultuous first seven months of the year, guard Klay Thompson has clarified comments construed as selfish and Durant has endured scrutiny in search of reasons he departed Oklahoma City to join the Warriors.

It’s not going to stop, particularly regarding Durant.

“Yeah, we’ve talked about it,” point guard Stephen Curry said Monday, after practice at UC-San Diego. “We’ve talked about it, because of the questions that are asked of him and the response he gets in arenas, we all will be a part of it.

“He could (not) care less, and we could (not) care less, about whether he gets booed, cheered or whatnot,” he added. “We’re here to play basketball. He’s here to have fun. We’re here to win games. That’s what we’re going to focus on.”

Focusing is going to be the challenge. With double the attention as defending champs last season, the Warriors won their first 24 games. With the spotlight brightening, they finished 73-9, the best record in NBA history.

But Durant’s arrival has boosted the buzz to an even higher level. Opponents are chiming in with their opinions about what he should have done. Durant’s comments are being examined for slights directed at his former employer or former teammates.

Green last week took the unusual step of stridently defending Durant from those players who have been critical of his decision to join the Warriors.

“That’s what teammates do,” Durant said. “You have each other’s back, no matter what the situation is. And we’ll talk about the rest indoors.”

Asked on Monday about his decision to join the Warriors and the likelihood of ensuring criticism, Durant’s answers where curt and limited.

“I just did what I wanted to do,” he said. “It’s really that simple. No bells and whistles. No show. I did what I wanted to do.

“I just wanted to play here. No more than that.”

That’s it. Nothing more, and that was the end of the Durant’s media availability.

Durant clearly is tiring of the subject of Kevin Durant and the whys and wherefores of his decision. The Warriors, players and coaches, are eager to move on.

“We’ve kind of seen it all, done it all, good and bad,” Curry said. “Now it’s just about being ourselves, no matter what might come at us. We don’t know what this year is going to be. There’s going to be ups and downs. That’s guaranteed. We don’t know exactly what we’ll have to deal with.”

The chatter is going to linger into November and December and beyond, perhaps reaching a fever pitch when the Warriors go to OKC in February.

And it’ll become even broader and more relentless if the Warriors don’t own the league from opening night.

“As soon as we lose a game,” coach Steve Kerr said, “it’s going to be, ‘What’s wrong with the Warriors?’

“We’ll address that when we get to it. But going through last year, winning 73, setting a record, losing in The Finals, we pretty much saw everything. So we know.

We understand we’re going to get criticized, we’re going to get celebrated – and everything in between.”
 

Daryl Morey admits Rockets make most decisions with Warriors in mind

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AP

Daryl Morey admits Rockets make most decisions with Warriors in mind

Grass is green, the sky is blue, and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is still obsessed with knocking off the Warriors.

Morey admitted as much in an interview with the Houston Chronicle, telling the paper that "a very high percentage" of the Rockets' decisions this offseason are made with one thing on their mind:

Same as last year, it's very likely to win the title we're going to have to beat the Warriors at some point. We're doing what we can to prepare for them. To me, that's what any rational person would do. I'm intrigued by some thinking it's odd that we say that. Maybe because it's not a norm. Ask any fan, 'Who do you have to beat to win the title?' They're going to say 'the Warriors.' It seems like [general manager] speak or coachspeak to not say that.

Morey told anybody who would ask last season that the Rockets were single-mindedly obsessed with beating the Warriors in the playoffs. Houston came close last season, jumping out to a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals, before Golden State stormed back to win the final two games in Rockets star Chris Paul's injury absence.

Morey responded with a substantial makeover of his roster. Defensive stoppers Luc Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza are gone, while Carmelo Anthony, Michael Carter-Williams, Marquese Chriss, James Ennis and Brandon Knight are in. The Rockets were one of the West's best defensive teams last season, and Morey expects the team to withstand the loss of Ariza and Mbah a Moute.

"We can be [as strong defensively]," Morey told the Chronicle. "They were both extremely good defenders. So it will be a challenge. That was a big part of our meeting. [Assistant coach Roy Rogers] was walking through what changes and how excited he was with what he was planning to do and the personnel we have to be better than last year."

Morey -- as well as the Warriors -- will get a first look at whether or not Houston's offseason was successful on Nov. 17, when the Rockets host the defending NBA champions.  

Kevin Durant follows ex-teammate Russell Westbrook on Instagram

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USATSI

Kevin Durant follows ex-teammate Russell Westbrook on Instagram

There might be hope for Jimmy Butler to mend fences in Minnesota after all.

It appears ex-Thunder teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are on better terms. Durant started following the Thunder point guard on Instagram on Saturday.

Durant and Westbrook played together for eight seasons in Oklahoma City, but their relationship seemingly turned sour two years ago after Durant joined the Warriors in free agency. Westbrook reportedly wasn't happy Durant spurned OKC for the Bay Area, and the two jawed at times during various Thunder-Warriors tilts.

But the icy relationship seemed to thaw at February's NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles. Durant and Westbrook again played for the same team, and it appeared they were enjoying themselves.

That was a departure from the previous year -- Durant's first with the Warriors -- and the back-to-back Finals NBA MVP took the blame for their beef. 

"I feel like I f---ed that up," Durant said at the time. "I feel like I made it a thing when it shouldn't have been."

For his part, Westbrook said the weekend in February was "normal." But, as of this writing, Westbrook still does not follow Durant on the platform. He did, however, post this image on his Instagram story to show where he stood.

Well, where he stood physically, at least.