Warriors handle whirlwind of emotions amid Kevin Durant injury, Game 5 win

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TORONTO – Warriors general manager Bob Myers fought back tears. Coach Steve Kerr was somber. Players spoke in hushed tones.

And this was on a night Golden State won Game 5 of the NBA Finals to stave off elimination!

The strange scene stemmed from Kevin Durant‘s Achilles injury, which forced him from the game in the second quarter.

Any feelings of frustration have morphed into sadness and inspiration. Durant returned from a month-long absence, played well then re-injured himself in a whirlwind stretch to open the game. Everyone is still processing their feelings, but the unified message from the Warriors now: They stand with Kevin Durant.

They also showed they’re good enough to win without him, at least for a night and only with his early boost.

Stephen Curry was at the center of both causes.

Curry’s last five seasons can be split into two distinct periods – before Durant and with Durant.

In the former, Curry won back-to-back MVPs. He was the Warriors’ undisputed best player and good enough to lead them to the 2015 title, 73 wins the next season and Game 7 of the 2016 Finals. His on-court excellence commanded respect, and he rose to his natural leadership position.

In the latter, Curry often deferred to his co-superstar. Golden State still belonged to Curry, and he clearly took on the burden of making Durant feel welcome.

Both sides of Curry came through when Durant got hurt.

Curry left the game to walk with Durant and Andre Iguodala toward the locker room. Though he usually frames his desire to accommodate Durant in terms of doing whatever it takes to win, Curry gave a different explanation for this gesture.

“Everybody gets so wrapped up in chasing championships and the greatness that you see on the floor,” Curry said. “But life is more important in terms of caring about an individual.”

Curry still found his way back to Golden State’s bench in time to regroup his team.

“You could kind of just feel the life just go right out of us,” Draymond Green said. “But to Steph’s credit, he kind of rallied the troops. He talked to everybody, went around the huddle and just told everybody to stay locked in and do this for Kevin.”

It became like old times – Curry and Klay Thompson scoring, Green doing a bit of everything. Add a dash of DeMarcus Cousins, and the Warriors had enough to beat the Raptors.

At least after Durant’s important start.

Golden State outscored Toronto by six in Durant’s 12 minutes. Toronto outscored Golden State by five in the other 36 minutes.

In three years, Durant has made a deep impact on the Warriors – mostly for better and occasionally for worse. He attracts drama, but he also produces in these big games. With 11 points in 12 minutes, Durant became the first player to enter an NBA Finals this deep into the series and score double digits in his first game. He has also been open about his life journey and trying to find himself – endearing himself to a few of us.

“He’s one of the most misunderstood people,” Myers said. “He’s a good teammate, he’s a good person, it’ not fair. I’m lucky to know him.

“Sports is people. I know Kevin takes a lot of hits sometimes. But he just wants to play basketball, and right now, he can’t. Basketball has gotten him through his life. So it means – I don’t know that we can all understand how much it means to him. He just wants to play basketball with his teammates and compete.”

It seems unlikely that will happen again this season, but an MRI on Tuesday will reveal more.

In the meantime, Durant’s latest injury has brought him and the rest of the Warriors even closer together. Eventually, they’ll have to snap out of this funk and prepare for Game 6. But their motivation will be easy to find.

“We do it for Kevin,” Thompson said. “We do it for K.”

Report: Kevin Love would prefer to play for Portland if traded

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are listening to trade offers for Kevin Love.

Love’s reaction to this is essentially “whatevs.” He’s been in the middle of trade rumors for four years now, it’s as constant and annoying in his life as taxes.

However, if he is going to get traded, he’d prefer to go home to Oregon and play for Portland, reports Kevin O’Conner at The Ringer.

Love would prefer to play for his hometown Portland Trail Blazers, according to multiple league sources. The Blazers make perfect sense as a destination for Love; they need help for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum after the team has been decimated by injuries….

The Blazers have the salaries to make a deal work with the expiring contracts of Hassan Whiteside ($27.1 million) or Kent Bazemore ($19.3 million).

There were previous reports Love just wants to go to a contender. That said, there is logic to him wanting to go home, and there is a good fit in Portland, a team that needed help at the four before injuries rocked the roster. Love is averaging 16.1 points and 10.5 rebounds a game, is shooting 37.1 percent from three, and remains one of the best outlet passers in the game.

Making a trade work is trickier. Bazemore has to play a much larger role after Rodney Hood was lost for the season with a torn Achilles, his availability is up for debate.

Hassan Whiteside can make the trade numbers work with his expiring contract, and Whiteside won’t be missed once Jusuf Nurkic (and even Zach Collins) returns from injury. However, the Cavaliers are going to want draft picks or young players to help with their rebuild to make this trade. Would the Blazers throw in a protected first to make this happen?

There also is this question any team trading for Love has to ask itself: Do we want to take on the three-plus years remaining on his four-year, $120 million contract? That’s a lot of money and years for an All-Star player who is productive but aging, and also has a lengthy injury history.

Portland can also try to trade for Danilo Gallinari and his expiring contract with the Thunder, which has a lot less risk involved.

Love, however, would be popular in Portland, and he would help the team.

Jaylen Brown: Celtics nicknamed Grant Williams ‘Ben Simmons’ due to missed 3s

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Celtics rookie Grant Williams on 3-pointers in his first 20 games: 0-for-25.

0-for-25!

Nobody else has ever started a season that cold.

Of everyone else to attempt at least 25 3-pointers in their first 20 games, nobody made fewer than two. Of everyone else to miss all their 3-pointers in their first 20 games, nobody attempted more than 17.

Finally, Williams made a 3-pointer in Boston’s win over the Cavaliers yesterday.

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, via NBC Sports Boston:

We were calling him Ben Simmons for the longest. But he knocked one down, and knocked them down, too. So, shoutout to both of those guys.

Yes, 76ers guard Ben Simmons barely shoots, let alone makes, 3-pointers. But it seems as if Brown realized mid-answer he shouldn’t provide bulletin-board material to a rival.

Too late.

Simmons has gotten called a coward numerous times by people in Boston due to his refusal to shoot 3s. Becoming the butt of the joke with fellow NBA players? That’s something else entirely.

We’ll see how Simmons responds, but many around him – including Philadelphia coach Brett Brown – have been urging him to hoist more 3s. It’s hard to see this inspiring Simmons to actually change his game.

Paul George says there’s more to his Pacers exit: ‘I promise you, I’m not the one to boo’

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In 2017, Paul George told the Pacers he planned to leave in free agency the following year. It wasn’t a trade request, but George knew his message would likely prompt Indiana to deal him. He wanted out.

George said he preferred the Spurs. (Or was it the Lakers?) The Pacers dealt him to the Thunder.

Now with the Clippers, George returned to Indiana and got booed.

George, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:

“You know, someday I’ll do a tell-all and tell the leading events of how I left Indiana,” George said. “And I promise you, I’m not the one to boo.”

“… I’m not gonna share the teaser,” George later added. “… I like being the villain. I’m here two nights out of the year. The people they should boo is here a lot longer than I am.”

Maybe George felt he got wronged. Maybe George actually got wronged.

But fans generally side with their favorite team over a star player who chose to leave.

It’s hard to imagine a set of circumstances where Pacers fans would boo someone other than George for his exit. My hunch: His grievances are significant to him but wouldn’t persuade Indiana fans. Still, I’m at least curious about his full story.

LeBron James on 2011 NBA Finals: ‘I lost my love for the game’

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LeBron James became a villain by leaving the Cavaliers for the Heat on The Decision in 2010. He arrived in Miami promising “not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven” championships.

By the end of his first season with the Heat, he was beaten down. The Mavericks topped Miami in the NBA Finals, winning the last three games of the series. While Miami blew its 2-1 lead, LeBron averaged 15.3 points and 4.7 turnovers per game. He shot 2-for-12 on 3-pointers and 4-for-10 on free throws.

After Game 6, he callously mocked his critics:

“All the people that were rooting for me to fail… at the end of the day, tomorrow they have to wake up and have the same life that (they had) before they woke up today,” James said. “They got the same personal problems they had today. And I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things I want to do.”

ESPN:

LeBron emerged from his funk and led the Heat to consecutive titles. He returned to Cleveland and won another title there. He’s now with the Lakers leading another championship pursuit.

He plays well. He plays smartly. He plays with joy. He often rises to the biggest occasions.

LeBron probably had to go through a setback like the 2011 Finals to sharpen his mental edge. But it’s incredible how far he has come from the defeated player who left that series against Dallas.