Saturday, June 4, 2016

Durant out of the playoffs but still on Warriors' minds

Harrison Barnes would be most directly affected should Thunder forward Kevin Durant end up with Golden State.
— Kevin Durant has been in the Warriors locker room for months, an obvious presence without actually being present, a loud constant without saying a word, even now that his season has ended.
Especially now. The Warriors just pulled off one of the great moments in franchise history by erasing a 3-1 deficit to eliminate Durant and the Thunder. They are up 1-0 in the NBA Finals against the Cavaliers and can take a commanding lead when the series resumes Sunday evening at Oracle Arena.
With all that, K.D. is very much part of the Golden State landscape. Officially, of course, no. Truthfully, though, yes.
That the Warriors want to be at the front of the line if Durant considers leaving Oklahoma City as a free agent has been a poorly kept secret since early in the regular season. Of course, a lot of teams want to to be in that spot. The difference is a lot of teams won't have at least one championship and two straight trips to the Finals in the bag, not to mention the most regular-season wins in NBA history.
Golden State management would love the opportunity to consider breaking up a back-to-back champion, and the players know it.
Guys have definitely asked questions. We're not immune to it. We've seen it. We've seen the rumors, heard the rumors, all that kind of stuff. Different guys at different times have been scratching their head and thinking, 'Why?'
– Warriors center Andrew Bogut
"Guys have definitely asked questions," center Andrew Bogut told NBA.com. "We're not immune to it. We've seen it. We've seen the rumors, heard the rumors, all that kind of stuff. Different guys at different times have been scratching their head and thinking, 'Why?' The only way we can dispel all that stuff is maybe we've got to win five straight. Who knows? It's one of those things we can't really control, but we can control trying to make them make a tough decision."
It clearly hasn't been a problem that's reached the level of distraction -- again, check the Warriors' recent resume -- but the potential of a major roster jolt to the best team in the league, even for Durant, has been on players' minds.
"Guys obviously ask questions at certain times," Bogut said. "We've had two good years. Guys definitely find it interesting. But we understand that it's a business and you're not going to be able to stop. If an owner or a GM wants to do something, they're going to do it."
Durant doesn't even have to end up in Oakland as a free agent -- either this summer or in 2017 should he choose to take a short-term deal in Oklahoma City and defer the ultimate decision -- for the uncertainty to become an issue on the Golden State roster. Players talk about possibly becoming part of a sign-and-trade. Others know it will influence their own contract situations, regardless of what K.D. does in a month.
It's out of my control. People say, 'Do you want to be here in Golden State?' A lot of it is, look, I love Golden State. I'd love to be here. But there's also some other factors that factor into that.
– Warriors forward Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes, for example. He will be a restricted free agent on July 1 and plays the same position as Durant, small forward. Barnes would love to stay. But asked if he thinks he is staying, he told NBA.com: "Assuming no one else chooses to sign here?"
He smiled.
"It's out of my control," Barnes said. "People say, 'Do you want to be here in Golden State?' A lot of it is, look, I love Golden State. I'd love to be here. But there's also some other factors that factor into that, you know what I'm saying?"
Loud and clear.
Bogut has likewise made it clear he wants to stay, to the point of hoping to sign an extension in October rather than waiting another year to become a free agent and being eligible for millions of dollars more. But when he spoke about the possibility in March, he said, "We all hear the rumors of other guys coming through here, so if that kind of stuff happens they'll be some shedding of some contracts, so who knows what can happen?"
That the Warriors have handled the potential distraction, when other teams might have let it become a problem, is another sign of their enviable chemistry. The real Kevin Durant didn't stop them in the Western Conference finals. And the front office debating breaking up a potential back-to-back championship team hasn't derailed them either.
"What we do is we play," forward Draymond Green said. "We just focus on what we can control and what we can control is playing together, going out and giving maximum effort. This is obviously a business."