Durant played just fine without Curry in the postseason, averaging 27.9 points on 47.9 percent shooting in six playoff games. With Durant going only 28.3 percent from 3-point range, however, perhaps he will have easier looks with Curry’s gravity attracting defenses. “On offense, it definitely picks the pace up for us. Defensively, I think we stick to the same principles. When Steph is not out there, it’s not a lot of off-ball movement to space,” Durant said. “It’s obviously different not having him out there. But when he’s out there, he’s creating space with his movement off the ball and in the pick-and-roll.”
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When Curry’s out there, Durant also has a partner for his shooting routine. Eventually, though, those joint shooting sessions could translate into Durant having a more efficient performance. “It’s more sharpening each other man. It’s never a competition,” Durant said. “It’s just about going out there and trying to get better. That’s the most important thing.”
“It’s weird not having Steph out there,” Durant said after a 109-103 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday. “And Andre [Iguodala] and D-West, Jordan [Bell], so we’re missing a lot and we’re just kind of playing on the fly each possession.”
“You can’t just roll the ball out and be like, ‘Go play. Y’all are talented. Y’all will figure it out,’ ” Curry told Yahoo Sports. “For three years, we had been grinding with a certain roster, and a way of playing, and that all changed and you’ve got to adjust and K especially brings a different level of play but we had to figure out how to balance it all. We had some ups and downs. We won some games, but it wasn’t as smooth as we wanted it to be. And I think we were overthinking it too much, early on. Hit a little stumbling block, talked our way through it, figured our way out of it and we’re better for it.”
“It wasn’t like I just got to know Steph when I came here. I knew what his DNA was already, so that was a plus. I wasn’t surprised with his spirit, his energy. The way he played,” Durant told Yahoo Sports. “I studied him. I study all these players I played against. I kind of knew Steph because he’s one of the best in the league, so I just wanted to see how hard he works on a day-to-day basis. And once I saw that early on, I was like, ‘He’s my type of guy.’ Somebody that I enjoy being around. Somebody that I enjoy learning from and working with. I feel like we’re teaching each other a bunch of stuff about the game. Iron only sharpens iron, so I want to be around the best when it comes to getting better as a player.”
Steph Curry wants everyone to know that he’s not mad about Kevin Durant about his teammate’s shoe comments. Back in August, Kevin Durant took a swipe at Curry’s shoe sponsor, Under Armour, saying that nobody wants to wear Under Armour.
With Curry being the face of Under Armour basketball (and finally getting a decent-looking shoe), the two-time MVP initially took exception to what Durant said. But now, they’re all good. After the Warriors’ preseason game in China, Curry posted an Instagram photo with Durant. The sneaker war is on!
Indeed, by season’s end, the seesaw act had worked to the tune of 67 wins. And after Durant’s return to the lineup in early April, the two combined for 119 points on 37-of-66 shooting in two games together in their first-round series sweep of the Trail Blazers. Still, two games does not a championship run make. In fact, it takes two months. Few have learned that lesson quite like Curry. One month he was touted as the “unanimous MVP.” The next, after a disappointing loss in the Finals, “unanimous MVP” became a sardonic epithet, a cudgel against a guy who’d rushed back from injury and into his own basketball Waterloo. He knows all too well that a season of never-ending praise can be upended in days. “I know if I’m not playing well,” he says. “And I can’t say that anybody’s right in the way that they talk about my year.”
Later, with 30 seconds left in the half, Steph makes the return official when he eagerly sprints into and launches a 3-pointer with his heel on the half-court logo. Swish. Steph hunches over and duck-walks away from his creation. As one does. He’ll finish with six 3s in only three quarters of play. “I think Steph catered to the whole theme of pleasing,” Bruce Fraser, the Warriors-appointed shooting coach, would later say. “He wanted to please. He catered to the whole, took less for himself. The irony in this season so far is that we had to learn how to play with KD, had to learn how to play without him. And both of those were challenges.”
Fissures had been forming. Genial Steph was noticeably frustrated with the state of affairs, perhaps more so than he’d ever been in the Kerr era. He played poorly overall on Christmas — 15 points on 36 percent shooting — and had barely touched the ball down the stretch. In the final four minutes, Curry took as many shots as Cavs role player Richard Jefferson (one). Though it was a regular-season game, Kerr elected to sub Curry out on the last defensive possession for the taller and longer Shaun Livingston. It was an understandable move to thwart a LeBron James pick-and-roll aimed directly at Curry, but it amplified the embarrassment. Steph’s head was in his hands as Kyrie Irving hit the game winner over Thompson.
Curry’s reputation was taking a beating, and the Warriors didn’t appear substantially more assured of a title than they would’ve been with last season’s squad. The wooing of Durant wasn’t like Miami’s super-team formation, which arose out of LeBron and Dwyane Wade’s deep friendship. Curry and Durant got along just fine, but Curry simply went along with the pursuit of KD — it wasn’t something he concocted. He’d been a good soldier by accepting what was right for the franchise, by abruptly leaving his basketball camp to fly to the Hamptons. For this, his reward had been a diminished reputation, offensive marginalization and little outward, organizational praise for the sacrifice.
A few days after Christmas, Curry spoke up about the state of affairs. “I definitely want to be in more pick-and-roll situations,” he said at Golden State’s practice facility when asked whether the ball was in his hands enough this season. “Whether I’m getting shots or whether we’re manufacturing ball movement, that’s a strength of ours, regardless of how teams play us.”
On the season, he has seen 19.6 screens per game; 25 starting point guards have seen more. The team has scored only 1.09 points per play, which is 20th in the league. Hence, Curry’s public and private frustration. But since that Christmas Day loss, the story has changed. Per SportVU data, the Warriors have bumped up the screens that the reigning MVP sees to 23.4 per game, and the team’s scoring average has ballooned to 1.16 points per play, which would rank fourth best over a full season. Curry has nearly doubled his scoring average out of the pick-and-roll, from 4.9 through Christmas Day to 8.4 since.
“I look at the numbers,” Kerr said of the distribution of shots between stars. “We obviously play a little different than most teams. We’ve been last in the NBA in pick-and-roll plays three years in a row. We do a lot of stuff off the ball. So obviously with KD’s arrival, the dynamics changed a little bit. So, Steph has the ball a little less this year. So does KD. Sometimes I’ll just, if I think Steph needs the ball more, I’ll call more plays for him. But for the most part, it kind of happens organically.”
Sam Amick: On Curry front, days off are tough to come by & Warriors host OKC tomorrow, at Houston Friday. More than happy to pass this ball to Durant.. pic.twitter.com/M4gAH7rXvD
“I think we had chemistry since the beginning of the season, since training camp,” Durant said of Curry. “I’ve been watching him a long time. He’s been watching me. We know how we play, where he wants the ball and where I want the ball. It’s a matter of experience and just getting out there and playing. But when you’re familiar with someone’s game and you respect someone’s game, it makes it easy to play with them.”
“Not at all,” Durant told The Vertical. “You can ask other guys, but I feel like I’m easy to get along with. I feel like I’m easy to play with. I don’t demand much. I feel like I’ve got a high basketball IQ. I’m still adjusting and learning the system and learning what coach wants from me, but for the most part, I’m good at improvising. I’m good at filling in. I can go out there and try to get a basket every possession. Or I can go in a corner and wait for the ball to come to me and space the floor. I feel I can do different things on the court, from being a No. 1 guy to the No. 2 guy to whatever. Setting screens and fighting in the trenches, playing the dirty game, I feel I can do all of that. I think that’s what’s making it easy. I don’t feel like I’m a one-dimensional player.”
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June 17, 2018 | 10:15 pm EDT Update
If that “somewhere else” was OKC, how would the fanbase react considering they are still applying aloe vera to soothe the burns of two summers ago? Newly elected Oklahoma City mayor David Holt is a lifelong Oklahoman. He served as chief of staff under the previous mayor, Mick Cornett. The two played significant roles in bringing professional basketball to The Big Friendly. “I am fully aware how Thunder fans have felt since July 4, 2016, because I feel it, too,” Holt said. “And I think we’ll feel that way forever if the status quo is maintained. Yet all KD would have to say is ‘I choose you,’ and virtually all fans would forgive him.”
Gabe Ikard was an All-American lineman for the Oklahoma Sooners. Now retired from football, the longtime Thunder fan co-hosts Franchise Players for 107.7 The Franchise in Oklahoma City. Those dual titles grant him solid insight on the psyche of the fanbase. “Durant’s departure to the Golden State Warriors resulted in the biggest backlash to a player’s free-agency decision in the history of sports,” Ikard said. “I’m not quite sure he expected that extreme of a reaction. I’m not sure Oklahomans thought that they would react so severely to his decision either. “But,” he added, “no one thought it would be Golden State. I find it hard to believe people that say they would not welcome him back,” Ikard said. “It’s easy to call him a snake and cupcake now. But if he was dropping 40-plus in Thunder blue again, a lot of fans would find forgiveness quickly.”