Whatever is next for the Golden State Warriors, it’s going to be very different

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OAKLAND — It was more than 90 minutes after the NBA Finals had ended, after the Toronto Raptors had beaten the Golden State Warriors four times in six tries.

The fans had left. First, the dispirited Warriors fans who didn’t believe this is how the final game at Oracle Arena would end. Next, the Raptors fans, loud and celebrating like first-time champions should, taking their party out into the city. The stage where Adam Silver had handed Kawhi Leonard his latest Finals MVP trophy had been taken down and put away. The only people left in the building were media members, ushers taking one last look around the arena, and some champagne-drenched players.

Stephen Curry was there and joined his family and friends up in the seats behind one of the baskets for one last photo, some remembrances, one last chance to soak in Oracle Arena.

Because It’s never going to be the same for these Warriors.

Not just because of the new building that takes them out of Oakland and drops them in the heart of San Francisco.

Whatever the Warriors look like next season, it won’t be the same as the team they believed would win them an NBA championship this past season.

Next season may look a lot more like the lineup the Warriors had on the floor at the end of Game 6 — no Kevin Durant and no Klay Thompson, both recovering from injuries, and a group of inexperienced and/or inexpensive players around Stephen Curry and Draymond Green.

What the Warriors will look like in two years is anybody’s guess.

But it will not be the same.

Kevin Durant is a free agent this summer and all season long it has been assumed in league circles he was gone from the Bay Area. Maybe headed to New York, possibly to be a Clipper in Los Angeles, but he was going to bolt town. Now, however, with a torn Achilles that will sideline him most if not all of next season, did his mindset change? Will he want to sign a shorter contract and rehab with a franchise where he knows the staff, knows the trainers, knows the players and is comfortable? Or does he still want out? Durant himself, still trying to process the emotions of this career-changing injury, may not know the answer. That said, the buzz is that he still leaves.

If he leaves, the Warriors are still over the cap and can’t just replace him. Those new Warriors will look more like the 2015 edition, just older.

Klay Thompson is a free agent as well, and he also will likely miss all of next season recovering from a torn left ACL. While he will also have suitors from coast to coast, nobody around the NBA seriously thought Thompson was leaving as long as he got a max contract. He will still get that, and Thompson’s father Mychael said on Friday his son will stay in Golden State.

DeMarcus Cousins is a free agent and the most the Warriors can offer him under the terms of the CBA is $6.4 million. There’s a good chance another team will come in higher than that despite Cousins’ injury history (after said team strikes out with other free agents and gets a little desperate). Cousins will just have trouble getting the number of years he wants.

Kevon Looney free agent and while Steve Kerr called Looney a foundational part of their future, it will be very expensive to keep the young big man after his strong performance in these playoffs. Other teams are targeting him.

Shaun Livingston is mulling retirement. Andrew Bogut is headed back to Australia.

Draymond Green’s contract can be extended, although with the Warriors cap situation it is more likely he becomes a free agent in 2020 and re-signs with the team, an extension would be a paycut.

Around all that, the Warriors need to find a way to get younger, get more athletic, get role players who can eat up a lot of minutes and take some of the load off Curry, Green, Andre Iguodala and the rest.

It’s a lot on GM Bob Myers plate — and the price tag is high. Very high.

Golden State’s co-owner (or whatever term you wish) Joe Lacob has said he would offer both Thompson and Durant the max, and he was willing to pay the tax to keep the band together. That sounds good, but bring everyone back and this team’s combined payroll and luxury tax will push $350 million. An NBA record. Yes, the Warriors are in the black. Yes, their new Chase Center building (owned by Lacob and company) basically prints money. That’s still a massive tax bill, and how many billionaires do you know of happy to pay taxes?

And that tax bill is a team that might not make the playoffs next year and certainly will not be a title contender with Thompson and Durant out (if KD even stays).

That’s why there’s a lot of speculation around the league that if Durant stays the Warriors may try to trade Iguodala and even Green, just to save some money, both next season and down the line. Green will be up for a max in 2020 and do the Warriors want to give him five years and north of $195 million?

There are a lot of questions, ones we will learn the answers to in the coming weeks. The one thing we do know?

That doesn’t mean the Warriors should be counted out.

“But our DNA and who we are and the character that we have on this team, I wouldn’t bet against us being back on this stage next year and going forward,” Curry said.

“I think everybody thinks it’s kind of the end of us. But that’s just not smart,” Green said. “We’re not done yet. We lost this year. Clearly just wasn’t our year, but that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes. But, yeah, I hear a lot of that noise, it’s the end of a run and all that jazz. I don’t see it happening though. We’ll be back.”

They may well be back in 2020.

But it’s going to be the same.

Doncic calls Antetokounmpo ‘the best player in the NBA right now’

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It was a matchup of two of the NBA’s top five players and two guys high in the way-too-early mix for MVP this season: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic.

Doncic carried the Mavericks again with 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting plus 12 assists.

Antetokounmpo was a force of nature with 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting plus 11 rebounds, plus he had more help around him leading the Bucks to a 124-115 win.

There is a mutual admiration society between these two players, and after the game Doncic called Antetokounmpo the best player in the NBA. Via Jack Maloney at CBS Sports.

“Enjoy [competing against him] is hard because I want to win, so it’s hard to go against a guy like that,” Doncic said after the Mavericks’ fourth consecutive defeat. “He’s the best player in the NBA right now. He’s almost impossible to stop. It’s really fun to see him play, but it’s not that fun to go against him.”

Antetokounmpo had praise for Doncic as well.

“That’s a great compliment and I appreciate that,” Antetokounmpo said. “When you play against the best players in the league, being able to say something like that feels good. No matter wins or losses, just being respected by your peers, it’s always a good feeling.”

We have many years of these two players testing each other, and someday it may be Antetokounmpo calling Doncic the best in the NBA.

Three things to know: The Warriors are starting to look like the Warriors again

Golden State Warriors v Minnesota Timberwolves
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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) The Warriors are starting to look like the Warriors again

About that slow start in the Bay Area…

Over their last 11 games, the Golden State Warriors are 8-3 with a top-10 in the league offense and defense and a +4.5 net rating (fourth best in the league over that stretch). The latest win was Sunday’s destruction of the stumbling Timberwolves, 137-114, a game that saw the Warriors up by more than 20 in the first quarter and never truly threatened again.

“I think we’re starting to put it together and if we can keep building at this rate, you know, we’ll be poised for a run pretty soon here,” Draymond Green said.

All season long the Warriors have had Stephen Curry playing at an MVP level, carrying the team. So what has changed over the past few weeks that has the Warriors rolling? Three things.

First, Steve Kerr started staggering the rotation and separating Green’s and Curry’s minutes some, something he tried not to do much in the past. It’s one way Kerr dealt with the fact the Warriors’ bench has struggled (getting Donte DiVincenzo healthy helped as well). Curry now stays in for the entire first quarter, while Green gets his first rest about the five-minute mark, then Curry sits to start the second and Green returns to play with more of a bench unit (both stars finish the quarter together on the court).

“I’ve said for years Draymond is kind of the heartbeat of our team,” Kerr said. “He’s the guy who kind of makes everything go and he’s the motivator, he’s the bully, he protects his teammates on the floor, talks trash. But this guy is just so good at basketball.”

Second, the other way the Warriors dealt with the bench issue was Kerr scaled back the “two timelines” experiment. The idea was that the roles Otto Porter and Gary Payton Jr. filled last season could be filled by the young trio of James Wiseman, Moses Moody, and Jonathan Kuminga. That plan failed spectacularly. Wiseman is now down in the G-League, while Moody is out of the rotation. Kuminga is getting his shot — he played well against the Timberwolves — but has been up and down this season.

“I think we’ve settled into some roles, guys are comfortable now with when they’re gonna play who they’re gonna play with. So I think that’s been helpful,” Kerr said.

Third, Klay Thompson found his legs. He kept saying he needed more time, and whether it was a spark lit by Charles Barkley or Thompson getting off of social media and out of his own head, it’s worked. In his last 10 games Thompson is averaging 20.8 points a game and shooting 46.2% from 3. He is not defending like his old self (and may never again), but he’s back to being a No.2 scoring option on an elite team.

Green would throw in one more reason, the Warriors’ defense is back.

“Most importantly our defense has picked up which allows us to push the pace more,” Green said. “Like it’s one thing to push off makes, which we want to do, but when you’re pushing off a miss and getting a rebound then going, that’s tough to guard because it creates a lot of cross-matching.”

There was no magic bullet for Kerr to fire, it took a number of things to turn for the Warriors to get back to being themselves. But they have now, and the rest of the West should be worried.

2) Doncic says Antetokounmpo is “the best player in the NBA right now”

The Dallas Mavericks had no answers. Not that teams really ever do.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was a force of nature Sunday and dropped 30 with 11 boards on the Mavericks, leading the Bucks to a 124-115 win.

After the game, Luka Doncic called Antetokounmpo the best player in the game. Via Jack Maloney at CBS Sports.

“Enjoy [competing against him] is hard because I want to win, so it’s hard to go against a guy like that,” Doncic said after the Mavericks’ fourth consecutive defeat. “He’s the best player in the NBA right now. He’s almost impossible to stop. It’s really fun to see him play, but it’s not that fun to go against him.”

Antetokounmpo returned the compliment.

“That’s a great compliment and I appreciate that,” Antetokounmpo said. “When you play against the best players in the league, being able to say something like that feels good. No matter wins or losses, just being respected by your peers, it’s always a good feeling.”

Antetokounmpo and Doncic are two of the guys in the early MVP conversation, along with Curry, Jayson Tatum and a few others. It turns out, those first two also have a mutual admiration society going.

3) Clippers Ivica Zubac put up a monster 31 and 29 line against Pacers

No Kawhi Leonard, no Paul George, but the Clippers picked up another win on Sunday knocking off the Pacers 114-100.

Thank Ivica Zubac, who had a monster 31-point, 20-rebound game.

After the game, Zubac was made he fouled out before he could get his 30th rebound and have a 30-30 game.

Quietly, Zubac is having a fantastic defensive season for the Clippers, but like the rest of the team his offense has been up and down as they try to adjust to ever-changing lineups. That Clipper defense locked down the Pacers in the second half, plus Indy was just off shooting 9-of-42 from 3.

Zubac found his offense, the Pacers had no answer for him, and the Clippers have a win and improved to 12-9 because of it.

Curry drains 7 3-pointers, Nets start homestand with win over Blazers

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NEW YORK — Kevin Durant scored 31 points, Seth Curry added a season-high 29 off the bench and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Portland Trail Blazers 111-94 on Sunday.

Curry was 7 for 10 on 3-pointers and had his highest point total with the Nets and the most by a Brooklyn reserve this season.

“I’ve always felt like if I get good shots I’m going to make them at a high clip,” Curry said. “Our offense was flowing pretty well. Guys found me open early on to start the game and I felt pretty good, aggressive.”

Kyrie Irving added 22 points for the Nets. Ben Simmons took just three shots but had 12 rebounds and eight assists.

“Ben did a great job of getting downhill,” Curry said. “He’s a great passer (and) he knows how to find me out there on the floor.”

Jerami Grant scored 29 points for Portland. Jusuf Nurkic had 17 points and 14 rebounds, while Anfernee Simons added 15 points and Justice Winslow had 14.

The Nets have won four of their last six games, while the Trail Blazers, who are playing without Damian Lillard, have dropped five of six.

“Tough little stretch that we’re in right now,” Portland coach Chauncey Billups said. “It is what it is. Every team goes through it.”

Brooklyn made 52.6% of its shots from the field overall, and 42.9% from 3-point range, in the second matchup between the teams in 10 days.

“It’s a make-or-miss league,” Durant said. “It’s about baskets.”

With the Nets leading by four entering the fourth, Curry scored Brooklyn’s first eight points of the quarter. Royce O'Neale‘s free throw gave the Nets a 93-87 lead and following a Portland turnover, Curry made a 3 that extended the advantage to nine.

Nurkic sandwiched a hook shot and free throw around two free throws by Irving to cut Brooklyn’s lead to 98-90. However, after a timeout, Durant hit a 3 to push the lead to 101-90.

Brooklyn led 58-57 at halftime, and 84-80 after the third quarter.

T.J. Warren targets Dec. 2 for return to court for Brooklyn Nets

2022-2023 Brooklyn Nets Media Day
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T.J. Warren was a breakout star in the bubble, averaging 26.6 points and 6.3 rebounds a game for the Pacers.

Warren has played just four games since the bubble due to stress fractures in his foot.

The Nets signed him this season hoping he could get healthy and provide some depth off the bench at the four. We’re about to find out if that can happen on Dec. 2, with Warren targeting his return then Toronto, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Nets have not confirmed this timeline. However, coach Jacque Vaughn has recently talked up Warren’s workouts and hinted that a return is getting close.

A healthy Warren could be a big boost for a Nets team looking for more of a spark off the bench.