Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant look to build a Warriors dynasty

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Stephen Curry tucked a celebratory cigar into his right sock for safekeeping as he handled all of his post-championship obligations.

He was still wearing his sweaty uniform, ankle braces, kneepads and game shoes but, oh, there would be more partying. Perhaps all summer long.

And if he and the rest of the Warriors have their way, for years to come.

Curry, Kevin Durant and their teammates are determined to build a dynasty together – and they might just be well on their way.

LeBron James believes so.

Two titles in three years for Golden State. A fabulous first one with and for Durant.

“We’re obviously just getting started,” Curry said after closing out Cleveland in Monday night’s NBA Finals Game 5. “This is something that we want to continue to do, but for us to have these conversations that we had almost a year ago and now being in this position, worth every shot we took in practice, fighting through injuries that he had this year, and it’s an unbelievable feeling.”

The second NBA championship feels drastically different for Curry, because this one was a comeback from a heartbreaking missed opportunity last year against James and the Cavaliers when the Warriors knew they should have won it all but squandered a 3-1 lead.

As a raucous crowd cheered at Oracle Arena, Curry watched freshly crowned Finals MVP Durant capturing his first ring in his 10th NBA season.

“It’s different just because of what happened last year to be honest,” Curry said. “We went through, for lack of a better term, basketball hell in that sense of just being so close to getting the job done and not realizing that goal and having to think about that for an entire year and compartmentalize and just try to keep the right perspective about this season and learn the lessons that we learned.”

Coach Steve Kerr cried. Golden State general manager Bob Myers also was moved to tears given Kerr’s courageous Finals comeback from an 11-game absence while dealing with complications from back surgery following the 2015 title run.

Kerr still found time to crack a joke on the stage afterward: “Well, we had very little talent, actually, it was mostly coaching.”

Later, he was straightforward and serious: “We were heartbroken last year, but this year was our turn.”

Myers realizes adding Durant might not have worked so well with anyone but the Warriors.

“Kevin’s journey, our team embraced him. Some teams wouldn’t embrace a guy who came into a situation like ours. It looks like it was easy, but guys like Steph Curry welcoming him and kind of let him shine – it worked out like it should,” Myers said. “If you want to win, it doesn’t matter. It’s not about who scored what. It’s about winning. I think he knew that. He won a championship, and then we were close and didn’t win one. So you have a clear sense of what matters when you go through that stuff.”

Now, the Warriors will face a frenzy of free-agent moves this summer to try to keep as many stars and brilliant backups as possible around for another run in 2018.

Owner Joe Lacob will be pulling out his pocketbook to potentially give Curry a $200 million deal. Whatever it is, the big-money contract will be a hefty raise from the $12 million he earned on the way to a 16-1 postseason.

Money and egos aside, the Warriors blended beautifully from the day Durant first walked into team headquarters.

“I mean, come on, you got a bunch of guys who are talented and can shoot and pass and dribble, and they’re unselfish,” Kerr said. “There was never any question in my mind that this was going to work. So, this is the culmination of a year where they grew together and learned each other’s games and got better and better all year, and it was just phenomenal to be part of.”

One moment late Monday captured the camaraderie that evolved. As a grinning Curry held daughter Riley in his arms, Durant stood next to them with his left hand on the point guard’s head.

Later, the two-time reigning MVP took off his new NBA champions hat and studied it briefly before pulling it on again, backward.

Curry had Durant to complement his game this time, to take some pressure off. They learned from each other every step of the way, they pushed one another through fierce shooting competitions that were pure entertainment on a practice floor.

At the start, Curry took a backseat to let KD get comfortable. Then Curry carried Golden State while Durant healed from a left knee injury that sidelined him late in the regular season.

“Steph definitely took a back seat to start the season until he realized we didn’t need him to take a back seat, we need you to be aggressive as you’re going to be,” forward Draymond Green said. “And when Steph turned that corner, I think it was after Christmas Day, when he turned that corner, we became almost unbeatable.”

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Report: Suns send Eric Bledsoe home, expect to trade him

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In a shocking twist, the Suns firing Earl Watson did not end the dysfunction in Phoenix.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Bledsoe:

That is a first-rate tweet by Bledsoe. It’s great that he’s having fun with the wild situation, because the rest of us sure are amused peering in.

This was always going to be a long season in Phoenix, but things got out of hand in a hurry. The 0-3 Suns have been outscored by 92 – the worst three-game start in NBA history by 16 points. Now, comes the fallout.

At 27, Bledsoe was getting to be a little too old for a rebuild centered on Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and T.J. Warren. The Suns could have dealt Bledsoe in the offseason. Now, they’re negotiating from a position of weakness.

Bledsoe is a good starting point guard when healthy. He’s earning a reasonable $14.5 million this season and due $15 million in the final year of his contract next season. There should be suitors, and Phoenix can gain long-term assets while stepping up its tank.

But this sure seems like a crisis-control move more than anything else.

Willy Hernangomez ‘mad’ about falling from Knicks rotation

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Knicks president Steve Mills started his second tenure talking about rebuilding and listed Willy Hernangomez as a core piece.

But Hernangomez, coming off an All-Rookie first-team season, barely played in New York’s season-opening loss to the Thunder– drawing scrutiny.

Then, he didn’t play at all in a loss to the Pistons – eliciting a strong reaction from Hernangomez himself.

Hernangomez, via Fred Kerber of the New York Post:

“The same. I’m still mad,” Hernangomez said. “I cannot help the team win if I’m sitting on the bench. Two games in a row. It’s tough. I have to wait my moment. I cannot say nothing more.”

The Knicks are moving in different directions. Management is talking about building for the future. Coach Jeff Hornacek, who was hired by previous president Phil Jackson, is trying to win now.

There’s a fine line between developing Hernangomez through playing time and making him earn his minutes. Enes Kanter and Kyle O'Quinn might be better right now.

But being marginally better this season won’t get the Knicks anywhere meaningful except lower in the lottery. On the other hand, even on rebuilding teams, winning is most important to a coach’s job security. Earl Watson implemented the Suns’ tanking scheme, and look where that got him.

Hornacek is backed into a corner, and now one of the team’s most important young players is publicly expressing his displeasure. It’s the latest troubling sign in a locker room already suspicious of Hornacek.

Report: Eric Bledsoe requested trade from Suns before season

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Suns guard Eric Bledsoe tweeted yesterday:

In light of Phoenix’s 0-3 start and Earl Watson getting fired yesterday, that sure looks like a trade request. Still, there’s risk in making assumptions about vague tweets.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Why wouldn’t Bledsoe want out? The 27-year-old is in his prime and stuck on a young team that would rather tank than play him.

It’ll be interesting to see how Bledsoe explains the tweet. He previously paid lip service to his situation in Phoenix, but it appears he’s ready to open up. On the other hand, public trade requests typically draw fines from the NBA.

Another Hornets backup PG injured

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Hornets backup point guard Michael Carter-Williamsout.

Nicolas Batum, who handled a lot of playmaking with Charlotte’s second units – out.

Julyan Stone, another Hornets backup point guard – out.

Hornets release:

The Charlotte Hornets announced today that guard Julyan Stone has suffered a Grade 2 strain of his left hamstring. The injury occurred in practice on Sunday, Oct. 22 and he did not travel with the team to Milwaukee.  Stone is listed as out for tonight’s game against the Bucks and his expected recovery time is estimated at four to six weeks.

The Hornets have been outscored by an astounding 35.8 points per 100 possessions without starter Kemba Walker, producing an offensive rating of just 61.4. That’s in just 23 minutes, but the problem dates back to last season, when Charlotte was outscored by 7.0 points per 100 possessions with a 100.7 offensive rating sans Walker.

Now, the Hornets have little choice but to turn to rookie Malik Monk. Monk is a scoring guard, but his 6-foot-3 size means he has at least worked on playing point guard. Is he ready to play the position full-time for a team eying the playoffs. Probably not, but he’ll just have to do his best to keep Charlotte afloat in the few minutes Walker rests.