Warriors

Without Curry, a focused Durant exterminates Hornets: 'What a luxury...'

Without Curry, a focused Durant exterminates Hornets: 'What a luxury...'

For the first time this season, there was no mistaking the look in Kevin Durant’s eyes before tipoff. It was fierce and edgy and piercing, a window into his mind.

So Durant came out and played perhaps his most focused effort this season, and surely his most purposeful, hitching his teammates to his intensity and carrying the Warriors to a tip-to-buzzer 101-87 triumph over the Charlotte Hornets.

Durant’s salient numbers: 35 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and two blocks.

His intangible presence: profound and massive.

No question the Warriors needed Durant’s numbers and presence with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green unavailable from the start and Zaza Pachulia leaving less than five minutes into the game with an injury.

“What a luxury, to just be able to just throw him the ball with Steph and Draymond out, and Zaza as well,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters at Spectrum Center in Charlotte. “KD took over, but as a team we did a nice job of defending and getting us off to a good start.”

Durant led, yes, but he did so as much psychologically as physically. His will to win was practically palpable. This was the KD so visible so often last season, his first with the Warriors, when he was clearly the team’s best player.

For as good as he has been through the first seven weeks of this season, that KD has been absent with alarming regularity. He was seemed, on many occasions, unfocused and somewhat distracted.

Not on Wednesday. Durant was aggressive with his shot, taking a season-high 28. He was assertive with his playmaking, zipping passes to open teammates. And he was ferocious on the glass, fully recognizing that he was the only frontcourt starter available.

“It’s fun when you get to create and just be creative out there, whether it’s passing to JaVale (McGee) or a lob or shooting a pull-up jump shot, just all the stuff that you work on in those situations,” Durant said.

“Tonight it felt like I could go in my bag of tools, my bag of tricks, to pull some stuff out. I don’t expect it to be like that every single game, but tonight I thought it called for it and we set the tone early and after that I didn’t have to handle the ball as much on the floor.”

Durant was ready from the jump, producing 16 points, four rebounds, one assist and one block in the first quarter. He backed the Hornets into a corner from which they never really emerged.

“It was not really scripted, it was more of naturally how things were going to go with Steph Curry and Draymond out and Andre (Iguodala) coming off the bench,” Kerr said. “KD is naturally going to get the ball. I just liked his pace and his energy. He was attacking from the start which was great.”

There was a distinct energy to most everything Durant did, as if he were channeling Green. There was an overt toughness in the paint, filling the Zaza vacuum. The scoring, well, that was for Curry.

This is how Durant came away with his first triple-double of the season.

“When Zaza went out, that was tough to see, especially with Draymond and Steph out and then to have another starter out,” Durant said. “Everybody just rallied around it from the coaches to the players to the trainers, everybody it felt like.”

Thompson and Iguodala were excellent. Quinn Cook, starting at point guard in place of Curry, was steady. Nick Young provided a scoring boost off the bench.

Yet Durant was spectacular in ways he had not been this season.

This is not to say Durant is better without Curry. That’s nonsense on myriad levels, particularly after their fruitful coexistence last season, which ended with Durant being named the MVP of the NBA Finals.

For the Warriors to be at their best, Curry and Durant need each other.

Yet either is capable of providing what the Warriors need when the other is not available. We saw Curry do it last season and we saw Durant do it Wednesday night.

Bob Myers had a mandate for Steve Kerr's phone call with DeMarcus Cousins

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USATSI

Bob Myers had a mandate for Steve Kerr's phone call with DeMarcus Cousins

Over his first five NBA seasons combined, DeMarcus Cousins attempted 69 3-pointers.

He made 11 of them.

In 2015-16, Cousins went 70-for-210 from distance -- 33.3 percent.

In 2016-17, He made 131 of his 363 attempts -- 36.3 percent.

Last season, he shot over 35 percent from deep (104-for-294).

[RELATED: Did the Pelicans offer DeMarcus Cousins a contract? 'Only me and Dell Demps know what was said']

Cousins is a beast in the paint, but the 3-point shot has definitely become a part of his game.

At Cousins' introductory press conference on Thursday, Warriors GM Bob Myers discussed what the four-time All-Star brings to the Warriors.

He also shared a funny story from July 2 -- the day that Cousins to Golden State became a reality.

“It’s a different dimension. It’s not something we’ve ever had, as far as a low post threat, since I’ve been here ... prior to him talking to Steve (Kerr), we had been talking, and Steve said, ‘I want him on the block, we haven’t had that threat, we can give him the ball, we can play off of him.’

"And he said ‘not out on the perimeter.’ And so Steve was about to get on the phone with Demarcus and I said, ‘Don’t tell him that he can’t shoot any 3s. If you let Draymond shoot 3s, you gotta let Demarcus shoot 3s.’ So steve said ‘Maybe one or two.’"

As we all know, Kerr and Draymond have their history when it comes to the 2017 Defensive Player of the Year shooting 3-pointers.

You may remember Kerr's mother saying during the NBA Finals: “I’m no basketball aficionado, but Draymond shouldn’t be taking those three-pointers.

But back to Cousins.

Clearly, Kerr envisions the big man posting up and causing havoc on the block.

So naturally, it's likely that there will be a moment (or two) during the season when Cousins jacks up some triples and Kerr gets frustrated.

Get your popcorn ready!

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller

Bob Myers provides update on where things stand between Warriors, Pat McCaw

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AP

Bob Myers provides update on where things stand between Warriors, Pat McCaw

In late June, the Warriors extended Pat McCaw a qualifying offer (worth $1,744,951) to make him a restricted free agent.

He is yet to sign an offer sheet with another team.

If he does, the Warriors will have the ability to match.

So where do things stand between McCaw and Golden State?

Warriors GM Bob Myers provided an update when talking to Tim Kawakami on the TK Show podcast:

"We had some good talks in Las Vegas. We want Patrick back, but we understand that it's a process, just like they do. We hope it ends with him coming back as a Warrior.

"That's our focus, that's our goal. Can't say right now what will happen, but that's our hope."

After a promising rookie season, McCaw -- the 38th pick in the 2016 draft -- took a step back last year.

He averaged 4.0 points, 1.4 assists and 0.8 steals over 16.9 minutes per game last season.

The 22-year old shot below 41 percent from the field and below 24 percent from deep.

He missed 13 games in the middle of the season after suffering a wrist injury, and then had the scary fall in Sacramento on March 31.

"We love Pat and we really hope he's back," assistant GM Kirk Lacob said weeks ago. "We'll see how this process plays out."

Stay tuned...

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller