Warriors won’t let anyone forget unquestioned greatness of their dynasty; Curry opens up about KD leaving & looking ahead to new challenges

Monte Poole | NBC SPORTS 

Asked once upon a time why the A’s seemed so resistant inviting their illustrious alumni back to Oakland to celebrate history while promoting the franchise and the game of baseball, Oakland general manager Billy Beane began his reply with five words I’ll never forget.

“I’m really not into nostalgia …”

Though Beane’s focus in the early 2000s was on the current product, as it should have been, his neglect of the team’s hallowed history seemed short-sighted, a missed opportunity to remind folks that the A’s had royal blood in their baseball genes, reaching six World Series in 19 seasons, winning four. The Giants, by contrast, were 0-for-1 during that span but practically perfected the art of peddling their history.

The Warriors, thankfully, won’t be following the blueprint the A’s have since shredded.

They are going to wave their greatness at every turn, spotlighting banners, retiring numbers, building statues and perhaps, if co-chairmen Joe Lacob and Peter Guber have their way, maybe even hiring a choir to stand outside Chase Center singing hymns of glory.

As well they should, for the Warriors spent five seasons looking down upon a landscape of NBA teams in various stages of futility. Some surrendered. Some pursued with valor but were vanquished just the same. A few couldn’t keep themselves from spitting invective reeking of envy.

When they were atrocious, as they were for most of the 35 years between 1978 and 2013, the Warriors were clobbered with criticism. Now that the resurgent group we’ve come to know is breaking apart – while the rest of the suddenly emancipated NBA rearranged itself in stunning, spectacular fashion – it seems only fair that the recent past gets recognized.

  • The Warriors were 322-88 over the past five seasons, the best record and most wins over a five-year stretch in NBA history. That’s the knockout rebuttal to any argument coming from fans of the Jordan Bulls, the Shaq-Kobe Lakers, the Showtime Lakers or the Celtics of Larry Almighty Bird.
  • The Warriors won 73 games in 2015-16, wiping away the 72 wins of the 1995-96 Bulls and setting an NBA record that dares challenge.
  • The Warriors won 54 consecutive home games, also posting a 78-4 regular-season record in games at Oracle Arena over a two-year span
  • Most 3-pointers in a game? Stephen Curry, with 13 in 2016, broken by Klay Thompson’s 14 in 2018.
  • Most 3-pointers in a season? Curry, with 402 in 2015-16.
  • Only unanimous MVP in league history? Curry, same season.
  • Their response to losing the 2016 NBA Finals was to snag Kevin Durant and win back-to-back championships – blistering the league with a 16-1 postseason in 2017.
  • Most points in a quarter? Thompson, with 37 in 2015.
  • First teammates with 50-point games in a single week? Curry and Thompson last season.
  • Best plus-minus in a single season? Draymond Green, at plus-1,072 during the season of 73.
  • The 24 wins (2015) to open a season, the 34 road wins (2016) and the 16 consecutive home playoff victories, all records, as are the 114.8 offensive rating in 2016-17 and the 56.9 effective field goal percentage the very next season.

There are more individual and team records, of course, but to list them all is more a matter of accounting than appreciation. Besides, it would provide merely a glimpse of what made these seasons so special for the Warriors.

Led by Curry on one end and Green on the other, the Warriors changed the way the game is played. Under coach Steve Kerr, they combined the passing of the Gregg Popovich Spurs, the defense of the Jordan Bulls and the 3-point shooting accuracy of lab robots and turned it into a force so fierce the rest of the league wanted to emulate.

They went, in a ridiculously short period, from being the team few in the Bay Area cared to claim to one many locals claimed to love.

Not an arena in the league is without the presence of Warriors fans, sometimes loud enough to unnerve the local supporters. Not a block can be walked in the Bay Area without seeing folks in Warriors gear, mostly T-shirts and hoodies and caps – and that doesn’t count the tattoos.

Gone are such stars as Andre Iguodala and Durant. Going soon is Shaun Livingston. Gone, too, are JaVale McGee and Marreese Speights and Leandro Barbosa and Ian Clark and David West and Harrison Barnes and Zaza Pachulia and Festus Ezeli. Gone again are Matt Barnes and Andrew Bogut.

The Warriors of 2019-20 will be dramatically different, closer to the 2012-13 bunch except with more established veterans and likely fewer future All-Stars.

For five years, though, the Warriors went higher than anybody could have imagined. They won’t let anyone forget. Nor should they.

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Steph Curry opens up about Kevin Durant’s exit, state of Warriors after big changes

Andy Nesbitt | USA USA TODAY SPORTS

It’s been a busy few weeks in the NBA, as big names have been on the move ever since free agency began earlier this month.

The Golden State Warriors have been right in the middle of all that action, as they lost Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets and then parted ways with such mainstays as Andre Iguodala (via trade) and Shaun Livingston (waived). 

On Thursday, we were able to find out what Steph Curry thought about the state of the Warriors as he talked to the media after a practice round at the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament in Tahoe.

Curry opened up about Durant’s exit with this classy answer that you’d expect from such a strong leader:

He said, via The Mercury News:

“I mean, the three years that we had were special. With K.D., we had three straight Finals appearances. We won two of them, and we accomplished a lot as a group. Everybody talks about the amount of talent that we had on our team, but that doesn’t guarantee that you can figure it out on the court, that you can put all the pieces together to be successful. I’m really proud of what we accomplished.

“The beauty of free agency is everybody has a decision, everybody has a choice. You want to find your happiness wherever that is. The beauty of the NBA is everybody has that decision at some point, especially guys that deserve it, like KD and other top free agents. I like to look at what we accomplished and focus on that and be extremely proud of this run that we had. Now we are going to have to recreate it in terms of what it means going forward.”

Curry talked about D’Angelo Russell, who’s now a member of the Warriors:

“The noise he made last year was amazing, what they did in Brooklyn and him taking the next step as a certified all-star. I haven’t had much personal interaction with him, on or off the court other than playing against each other. Back when he was drafted, there were some comparisons of our game, how smooth he played, he can shoot, he can pass. Having a guy versatile like that only helps your team.

“The chemistry will develop quickly. We’ll be really purposeful about that and try to set the tone how we’ll play this year. It’s about encouraging each other and having confidence that we’ll bring the best out of each other. Then when Klay gets back as well, we’ll add him to the backcourt mix. It’s going to be fun.”

On the loss of Iguodala and Livingston:

“I’m the oldest on the team now, so I’m going to have to step my game up. It’s a tough business. That’s part of it. We knew at some point or another, whether it was this year or next year or the year after, there were going to be some hard decisions, some hard changes.

“You talk about Andre and Shaun, two guys that do things the right way, having the ultimate level of professionalism and leadership, and just have a presence when they walk in the room, that makes them who they are, three-time champs, both of them. They have a lot left in the tank. So it’s going to be fun, going to be hard to watch them on other teams. But look at all that we accomplished and those are things we’ll remember for a lifetime.

And on the new challenges:

“It will develop as we get together as a group. A lot of changes. It’s a tough way to end the Finals with K.D. and Klay getting injured, and obviously free agency. For us, our core, myself, Klay (Thompson), Draymond (Green), adding D’Angelo and a lot of hungry, young guys trying to prove themselves in the league, it’ll look different in terms of the lineups and things like that. But the expectations of how we play, that championship-caliber basketball, that for us will always be the motivation and the challenge.

“I’m excited, to be honest with you. Five straight years in the Finals and we’ve accomplished a lot, and three championships. There’s a lot to be proud of. But everybody wants a new challenge in terms of how do you get back to that level.”

It will be interesting to see how the Warriors bounce back next season, but you know Curry is going have fun trying to lead them through their new challenges.

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Thunder GM Sam Presti, coach Billy Donovan received death threats after Paul George trade

(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

Ryan Young | Yahoo Sports

Many Oklahoma City fans weren’t happy to see the the franchise’s recent roster moves this summer, which included sending Paul George to Los Angeles and Russell Westbrook to Houston.

After an interesting summer, it’s clear the Thunder are in rebuilding mode — which is a very understandable thing for fans to be upset about.

One Thunder fan, however, took it way too far.

Oklahoma City police are investigating after a man allegedly made death threats against the Thunder, general manager Sam Presti and coach Billy Donovan via phone, according to KOCO5.

“Y’all traded Paul George but kept Raymond Felton. You kept Andre Roberson. Do y’all not love Russell Westbrook?” a transcript of a voicemail left with the Thunder’s front office, via KOCO5. “I hope he kill everybody. I want to kill everybody.”

The man, per the report, said he’s from Virginia and “didn’t care if the team reported” his calls to the police. He insulted head coach Billy Donovan and threatened to “beat everyone who works for the Thunder.” He also made a bomb reference and said he would “blow things up” if he ever went to Oklahoma.

The man reportedly called and left a second voicemail minutes later, where he repeated his threats and then threatened Presti and his family.

“We defer to the authorities and they can handle the situation as they see fit,” Thunder officials said in a statement, via KOCO5.

After trading George to the Los Angeles Clippers for an array of draft picks, which was part of the deal that landed Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard with the Clippers, the Thunder traded Westbrook to the Rockets for Paul and and multiple draft picks last week. The Thunder were looking to move Paul elsewhere in the league, however reportedly struggled to find a trade partner for the nine-time All-Star. Paul is now expected to start the season with Oklahoma City after all.

Police are currently investigating the threats, and have acquired a search warrant to track the phone calls.

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Will the NBA’s superstar players exert power when it really matters?

In four seasons, teams and the league will likely push back against their freedom

WILLIAM C. RHODEN | THE UNDEFEATED

During the last exciting month of the NBA season, we have been hearing a lot about player power. The unanswered question is whether NBA players will exert power when it really matters.

The current league collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2023-24 season, although each side can opt out after the 2022-23 season. When the agreement rolls around, the current crop of rookies (the class led by Zion Williamson) will be completing its fourth NBA season.

In five seasons, players such as Kawhi LeonardKyrie IrvingPaul George and Anthony Davis will be the veteran sages, being counted on to provide leadership and muscle. And the players are going to need all the muscle and leadership that players can muster.

We are likely at the beginning of a billionaire backlash.

In the last month, we have had wealthy white NBA owners caving in to the demands of young black men to be traded. We have seen these billionaire investors, who otherwise may have little to no contact with young black men, begging this special class of African Americans to come play in their sandboxes.

The Brooklyn Nets all but declared a national holiday when Kevin Durant and Irving agreed to come to the team. The LA Clippers continue to celebrate the signing of Leonard. George, who signed a contract extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder last summer, forced his way out last week to join Leonard in Los Angeles. Davis signed a long-term contract with New Orleans and forced the multibillionaire Benson family not only to trade him but also to trade him to the city and team of his choice, the Los Angeles Lakers.

On June 6, I listened as Portland’s Damian Lillard spoke to reporters about player power and the effectiveness of player-on-player recruiting after he signed a four-year, $196 million extension. Lillard said the balance of power in the NBA has changed “because sometimes the coaches and the front offices, they don’t have as much power as the players.”

In the past, players had been programmed to resent one another, to see each other so thoroughly as foes and adversaries that they could not envision working together. Thanks to the AAU circuit, basketball has become like baseball in the way young players bond.

In baseball, they bond in the minor leagues, around batting cages and on bus rides. In basketball, they now bond as teammates and rivals on the AAU circuit, where their families form bonds.

“The players are so friendly now,” Lillard said, adding that a player like Michael Jordan was far too competitive to recruit. “Jordan probably didn’t go out searching and trying to get guys to come join him. It was, like, they was competing against each other.

“Now it’s, ‘Well, they got three stars on their team, so I know this guy and that guy, I’m going to try to get them to come to my team.’ ” Recruiting, Lillard said, “is more powerful than the pitch meeting. It’s become huge.”

But how will this power manifest when the owners push back? We likely are at the beginning of a backlash by multibillionaire NBA owners — sorry, “investors” — who have become tired of being pushed around by superstar players flexing their muscles under the banner: We are the league.

With the collective bargaining deadline at least four to five seasons away, more questions than answers, but questions demand answers.

What happens when these NBA investors become determined to change the terms and conditions of players getting into and staying in the NBA? When will they seek to close the loophole that allows players to “force their way” out of town?

Will players stand up to multibillionaire “investors” for whom they work? Will players stand shoulder to shoulder when these billionaires say enough is enough and demand, as they have in each negotiation, deep concessions?

In the past, investors have forced players to accept an age minimum and a lower percentage of league revenue. What happens when billionaire investors make the collective decision that they have had enough, that they want to make the NBA great again by putting players back in their places, remind them who is at the source of their wealth?

Will player power kick in when “investors” decide they are through with this dance?

Owners aren’t the only ones who want to see a change.

During a recent interview with Sirius NBA Radio, Lenny Wilkens, who is in the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player and coach, said he wasn’t a fan of players teaming up.

Asked if he thought the trend would continue, Wilkens, clearing speaking from a coach’s perspective, said “I hope not.

“I think the league has to make a judgment, has to step in and do something.”

Wilkens’ generation fought for and won free agency. “But for players to team up and say come play with me, let’s go here, let’s go there–I don’t think the league should allow that.”

He added, “I don’t like to see teams lose guys when they put so much effort into them without having the chance to re-sign the guy.”

A number of years ago, I asked Masai Ujiri the same question. At the time Ujiri, now the Toronto Raptors team president, was an executive with the Denver Nuggets and had engineered a blockbuster trade that sent Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups from Denver to the New York Knicks.

Asked at the time about unchecked player movement, he said, “I don’t think it’s a good thing; it’s not the greatest thing. I think we completely understand when people want change, but you want a good league,” he said.

The NBA is a players’ league, but the teams can determine which players. Will NBA teams put an even higher priority on bringing in talent from outside the United States, drafting and signing players who tend to be hungrier, more grateful, less entitled than the traditional pool of NBA players who come up through the high school, AAU and college pipeline? The influx of players from outside the United States could in the next 10 years drastically change the direction, and possibly the complexion, of the NBA.

In any event, all of this recruiting and player power has accrued collectively to the benefit of the individual teams, the team owners and the NBA. How have the communities from which these players come benefited?

Previous generations of players have fought for and won free agency.

This generation of players has not yet figured out how to become a collective economic force that creates and leaves a footprint. This is what real power looks like.

I have often challenged players to walk through their respective team offices and compare the number of African Americans working in those spaces while the players labor on the courts and on the field. Real power means desegregating the front offices and organizational charts of the players’ individual organizations that are now overwhelmingly white, or at least non-black.

Forget marching in the streets, joining rallies and kneeling during the national anthem. Why not use this newfound power and influence to make sure their organizations, the institutions that use your services, have a significant black presence?

Power begins at home.

In four seasons, the current foundation of NBA leadership will likely be out of the league: Chris Paul, the National Basketball Players Association president, will be gone. LeBron James could be gone, or, at the very least, he will be a greatly reduced force of nature.

Will the Durants, Leonards and Irvings of the NBA be prepared for a fight?

We can talk in this moment about player power. Will players exert power when it really matters?

William C. Rhoden, the former award-winning sports columnist for The New York Times and author of “Forty Million Dollar Slaves,” is a writer-at-large for The Undefeated. Contact him at william.rhoden@espn.com.

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