Warriors

Why Kevin Durant, Warriors' futures are so hard to forecast right now

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Tara Funk / NBC Sports Bay Area

Why Kevin Durant, Warriors' futures are so hard to forecast right now

Editor’s note: Kerith Burke, NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors reporter, will take you inside the two-time defending NBA champions as only she can each Friday with the Ask Kerith Mailbag. Send her a question on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #askkerith

Tip-Off

The mailbag was tough to write this week because I see all your questions about KD's free agency, or whether DeMarcus Cousins could come back next season, or who the Warriors will try to scoop up on the buyout market, and the answer is I don’t know. These are future-based questions, and I don’t know what happens in the future.

I’m not saying that to be flippant. I’m saying the uncertainty of the future is something every human on the planet grapples with. It’s agonizing to want to know and not have the answers you seek. As it pertains to sports and fandom, when you love a team or love a player, you create a connection to them that could make you feel entitled to answers as well.

Some answers don't exist yet. I’m going to tell you “I don’t know” when I don’t know.

Occasionally, when reporters probe, here’s what happens:


Game On!

@MikeVorkunov Will Kevin Durant leave the Warriors for the Knicks? Thanks, Someone Who Wants To Know How to Plan For July

@calh2water Will Durant bail?

Mike Vorkunov is a Knicks reporter. Very funny, Mike. The Knicks’ trade with the Mavs opened a lot of salary-cap space, enough to land two superstars. Will it be KD and Kyrie Irving, as you wrote, Mike? What if the Knicks don’t get KD and Kyrie, as Mike also wondered? The Knicks' organization is confounding.

The Kristaps Porzingis trade makes things interesting. But did you see the way the Knicks smeared Porzingis on his way out? Players talk. They warn each other about unhealthy environments. Here’s a deeper look at what made Porzingis sour.

Since 2008, the Knicks have had six head coaches. The front office has changed frequently, and even Phil Jackson couldn’t add some stability. The Knicks' owner is Jim Dolan, and you can read about him here. Or have fun on Google. Start with “Jim Dolan and Charles Oakley.”

To me, there are concerns about the environment in New York. That’s a city that can love you and HATE you in the same week. If the Knicks are a team KD is considering during free agency, he can get the inside scoop about what it’s really like to be in that organization from his friend, Royal Ivey, a Knicks assistant coach. KD and Ivey go back to their time together in OKC.

The Knicks keep coming up as a place for KD, but I don’t know if NYC is a destination he's considering. Even talking about it this much feels like there’s some certainty attached to it, and there is not.

KD is a deep thinker and feeler. He’ll explore his options from every angle. He might not know until the end of the season how he’s feeling.

The environment is good at Golden State. I think it would take a lot for KD to leave.

Does KD want a different challenge? What are the career goals that he has yet to satisfy? What would he like for his legacy? What is the environment he wants off the court?

There’s only one place those answers reside, and that's Kevin Durant's head. We got a glimpse inside KD's head Wednesday night when he proclaimed: “I just don’t trust none of y'all. Every time I say something, it gets twisted up and thrown out in so many different publications to try to tear me down with my words that I say. So when I don’t say nothing, it’s a problem. I just want to play ball. I want to go to the gym and go home. That’s all."

@JesseCrosson Hello again, Kerith! Up close, does the vibe of the team feel like a crew going for one last run or does it feel like they genuinely want to keep the train rolling after this year? With so much FA noise it’s tough to get a read but I know these boys want (and deserve) to get paid.

There’s one guy on the team I trust to speak like he’s on truth serum at all times: Klay Thompson. Since the start of the season, plus answers sprinkled in at practice, to postgame comments, Klay has steadily mentioned the goal to win a third consecutive NBA championship.

Klay’s enthusiasm to three-peat tells me the rest of the team is feeling this moment, too. This roster will be regarded as one of the best collections of talent assembled in NBA history. If you ever read The Outsiders in high school, you know nothing gold can stay. Nothing is certain season to season. There’s an urgency to seize this moment now while the Warriors have it.

@JamesCeragioli Hi Kerith. Conventional wisdom is this is a one year deal with Boogie...If KD does leave, would they look to keep Boogie and Klay? ...and will Draymond get a max deal? What's your vision of this team next year? I think this is the best team they have ever had. #AskKerith

I still feel like it’s a one-year deal with Boogie, but Bob Myers cracked the door open for a possible return.

Klay feels like a lock to return because I believe a guy who says “I would like to be a Warrior for life.” Truth serum.

As for Draymond, I don’t know. Like Steve Kerr has repeated, the Warriors would not have their championship banners were it not for Draymond. He is the heartbeat. He already took a paycut. Draymond knows the sacrifices he made in his paycheck and the ones he makes on the court guarding bigger opponents. There’s no one else like him in the NBA, and he probably has the leverage for whatever deal he wants, wherever he wants it.

@amc_boriqua510 Why can’t Jerebko get playing time anymore when he played so well earlier this season?

@Bballtweets3 How has Jonas Jerebko been dealing with the decrease in playing time he's had since Boogie's come back, besides the extra time he took off to be a new papa? #AskKerith

I asked Steve this week about Jerebko’s place in the rotation, and he said Cousins’ return has affected Jonas the most. But Steve predicted that situation back when Jerebko signed with the team. They’ve talked about it, and Jerebko understands.

Steve added: “It’s one of the reasons Jonas is so valuable. He understands the circumstances. He gets the league, so he’ll be ready when his number is called upon, and I know we can count on him. It’s not easy being in that role, but that’s the role.”

Jerebko has more than a decade in the league. He knows minutes can vary based on the situation, and he’s handling it like a pro.

He shared a picture of his two daughters, Izabel and newborn Celine, on Instagram on Thursday.

High Five

Steph Curry officially is participating in the 3-point contest during the All-Star festivities in Charlotte, his hometown. He'll compete in that contest against his brother, Seth.

Steph has been in the 3-point contest five times, and he won in 2015. Klay beat him in 2016. Klay said he’s not participating in the contest this year so he can enjoy being a spectator and watch the Curry brothers do their thing.

Steph has a spotlight on him wherever he goes, but the attention during All-Star break will feel amplified because of the hometown connection and the family affair. I imagine he’ll put on a show.

Follow Kerith on Twitter @KerithBurke and on Instagram @warriorskerith, and, of course, watch her on NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors coverage all season.

Warriors vs. Lakers watch guide: Lineups, injury report, player usage

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USATSI

Warriors vs. Lakers watch guide: Lineups, injury report, player usage

LOS ANGELES -- When they take the court Wednesday night to face the Lakers, the Warriors will be starting at the possibility of an unwanted first under coach Steve Kerr.

They’ve had losing streaks of two, three and four games -- but never of five.

That’s what they’ll own if they can’t find a way to upset the Lakers. Pregame coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 6 o’clock, with tipoff from Staples Center scheduled for 7:10.

While the Warriors (2-9) have lost their last four games by an average of 10.8 points, though two of them were close, Los Angeles (8-2) has lost only once since opening night.

If there is anything at all for the Warriors to exploit, it’s the absence of Anthony Davis, who reportedly will sit due to a variety of minor ailments.

 

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Warriors

F  Glenn Robinson III
F  Draymond Green
C  Willie Cauley-Stein
G  Jordan Poole
G  D’Angelo Russell

Lakers

F  LeBron James
F  Kyle Kuzma
C  JaVale McGee
G  Danny Green
G  Avery Bradley

 

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: G Stephen Curry (left hand fracture), G Jacob Evans III (left adductor strain), G Damion Lee (right hand non-displaced fracture), F Kevon Looney (neuropathy), F Alen Smailagic and G Klay Thompson (right ACL rehab) are listed as out.

Lakers: F Anthony Davis (right shoulder, rib soreness) is listed as doubtful but expected to sit out. C DeMarcus Cousins (right knee rehab) and G Rajon Rondo (right calf strain) are listed as out.

 

ROTATION OUTLOOK

Warriors: The biggest challenge they face is containing LeBron. Expect no fewer than four different players (Eric Paschall, Alec Burks, Green and Robinson) coming at James, who is doing a fine job directing the LA offense . . . Russell has been fabulous on offense, averaging 38.3 ppg since returning from a three-game stay on the injury list. He might be particularly motivated against the team that drafted him . . . The Warriors are becoming accustomed to playing with a small roster, but the return of C Omari Spellman after a one-game absence gives them three big men, with Marquese Chriss and Cauley-Stein. All three will be needed against the length of McGee and backup Dwight Howard.

Lakers: After missing the first four games with an injury, Kuzma has played in the last six games, coming off the bench averaging 12.3 ppg. If Davis sits, as expected, he likely will get the start ... Though still listed at SF, James is excelling at PG. Always a terrific passer, he is leading the NBA in assists (11.0). His averaging 12.0 apg and 2.8 turnovers over the last six games ... With LeBron leading the way, the Lakers recorded 39 assists, their highest total since April 2009, in a win at Phoenix on Tuesday ... Ex-Warriors G Quinn Cook has played in all 10 games, averaging 15.5 minutes and 5.6 ppg off the bench ... The Lakers are 5-19 against the Warriors over the past six seasons. In the six seasons before that, they were 20-4. The tide may be turning.

Officials: Ed Malloy (crew chief), Karl Lane and Matt Boland. 

Steve Kerr explains why Warriors-Lakers rivalry doesn't really exist

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USATSI

Steve Kerr explains why Warriors-Lakers rivalry doesn't really exist

LOS ANGELES -- Standing in the lobby of UCLA's Mo Ostin Center, Warriors coach Steve Kerr found himself in a unique scenario in his latest trip to Southern California. 

During his coaching tenure, he's won 80 percent of his games against the team he grew up rooting for, including 10 of the last 12 matchups. Now, in a trend Kerr knows all too well, his team seems to be declining as the Lakers are ascending, prompting a familiar question from the coach Wednesday afternoon.

"Have the Warriors and Lakers ever been up at the same time in the history of our league?"

The current iteration of each team's roster indicates the answer is a resounding "no." Four months ago, Los Angeles acquired all-star big man Anthony Davis, pairing him with LeBron James to form one of the league's best duos. Additionally, Lakers GM Rob Pelinka surrounded the core with two-way veterans like Avery Bradley and Danny Green. 

Meanwhile, Golden State's season remains in peril. No longer the prohibitive favorites to win the title, the Warriors have fallen from contention altogether. In five months, they have lost vital pieces, including Kevon Looney, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and superstar guard Steph Curry to injury. By Wednesday evening, Golden State could conceivably suit up just nine players at Staples Center. 

The current circumstances mirror the history between both teams. In four postseason matchups, the Lakers have never lost. When the Warriors won their first title on the West Coast in 1975, the Lakers failed to make the postseason. Twelve years later, when the teams played in the first round of the 1987 postseason, the top-seeded Lakers took care of the fifth-ranked Warriors in five games. Four years later, the eighth-seeded Warriors lost again in the first round in four games. 

Fast forward to 2015-2019, where the Warriors won three titles in five years while the Lakers were rebuilding, failing to reach the playoffs over that stretch. The course seemed to change 16 months ago, when superstar forward LeBron James signed with the team in free agency. Los Angeles responded by a 20-14 start, including a 127-101 Christmas Day drubbing of the Warriors at Oracle Arena. 

Then a groin injury -- suffered in the matchup against the Warriors -- sidelined James for much of the season. Adding to the peril, front office turmoil led to the resignation of Vice President Magic Johnson before the season finale and the eventual ousting of coach Luke Walton. 
 
"It looked to me like they were going to be pretty good," Kerr said. "And then they had their own challenges with injuries and other stuff."

Now, Lakers are on top. Following a victory Tuesday night in Phoenix, they're at the top of the Western Conference. Davis -- who isn't expected to play Wednesday night against Golden State -- is averaging 26.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game, while James continues to be one of the league's best players, solidifying one of the best cores in the league. 

"It's not surprising," Kerr admitted. "LeBron is one of the best passers in the history of the game. He's got Anthony to work with as a pick-and-pop guy, as a lob threat. You talk about two of the most talented players in the game and they both have great feels so it's not at all surprising."

[RELATED: Warriors must fix ugly defense to avoid hitting rock bottom]

Hope may be on the way for Golden State to balance the matchup going forward. Curry, Green and Thompson are all expected to be healthy by the start of next season, bringing back the core formidable enough to go against Los Angeles. 

"They've been good for a long time," Kerr said. "And they're good again and we're trying to get there."