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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.

James Harden came to Rico Hines run at UCLA and just destroyed people

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Elite NBA defenders, with a team and a game plan behind them, can’t slow down James Harden.

So imagine what happens when he shows up for an open run.

One spot a lot of NBA players head in the summer to get some games in is Rico Hines’ games at UCLA. Harden showed up and, well, you know what comes next. Via Ball is Life.

The man is so smooth, so under control, and just able to get buckets however he wants. It’s just fun to watch. Unless you’re an opposing coach.

Could Kevin Durant return from torn Achilles, play for Nets this season? Maybe…

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Every case is different, but many players return from a torn Achilles in about nine to 10 months. Kobe Bryant pushed and did it in eight. Other players will take a full year.

If Kevin Durant returned in nine months it would be March, enough time to get in game shape and be ready for the Nets’ playoff run.

There’s a growing sense from teams we could see just that scenario, and Spencer Dinwiddie talked about it with Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

Though Nets GM Sean Marks refused to rule Durant out for the season, the feeling within the league is trending toward him potentially playing this season.

“I know KD is taking the rehab process ultra-serious. He wants to come back as soon as it’s appropriate, and healthy and the right decision for him, and then also subsequently that would also be the right decision for,” said Dinwiddie, who points out that even a slightly-diminished Durant could still be a superstar.

“The beautiful part about this is, the man is 7-foot and one of the best shooters of all time. At worst you get Dirk [Nowitzki], and Dirk was a monster. So we’re ready for him to come back whenever he wants to and whenever he’s ready to do so, and we know that he’s going to be a phenomenal major piece of our roster.”

Durant is an intense competitor who wants to get back on the court. He pushed to get back from a calf injury and play in the NBA Finals only to suffer the Achilles tear. He’s smart enough to be sure he’s all the way back before he steps on the court, if that means he sits out a full season so be it. However, he absolutely could return this season.

If he’s back, the Nets go from interesting team to potential threat to the Bucks and Sixers at the top of the conference. Durant was the best player in the world the past couple of years and he could return to that status quickly, and lift Brooklyn up with him.

Will Toronto give Pascal Siakam a max extension?

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In his third year in the league last season, Pascal Siakam made a leap. He averaged 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds a game, shot 36.9 percent from three, became a shot creator, played quality wing defense, and he was a key part of the Raptors earning the right to have a parade and hoist a championship banner. He earned that Most Improved Player trophy.

Siakam is Toronto’s future after a summer where Kawhi Leonard left.

Siakam also is eligible for an extension right now.

Should the Raptors give him the max of five years, $170 million? A number of executives around the league told Frank Urbina of Hoopshype that Siakam may be worth that number.

A Western Conference coach agreed: “With Toronto in the situation that they’re in, no longer having Kawhi Leonard or Danny Green, Pascal Siakam may be a safe bet for them and they may want to give him a max extension to lock him up. I’ve been impressed with his development; he’s improved into a highly, highly serviceable player who’s very efficient and does a lot for that team. From the outside looking in, it seems like he’ll be able to continue his development too. He seems highly motivated and very grateful to be in the situation he’s in and he doesn’t take anything for granted.”

Is “highly serviceable” worth the max? The two players who got that money this summer were Ben Simmons in Philly and Jamal Murray in Denver. Most of the GMs spoken to for the article would try to extend him for less than the full max.

“I think they’re going to try to extend him,” one current Eastern Conference GM said. “I haven’t talked to Toronto, but he’s obviously a huge piece for them, helped them win a championship, he’s getting better, he’s young, he’s athletic and he can shoot. They’re going to try to extend him. Do I think he’s a max player? No. Do I think he’s a good player? Certainly. It’ll come down to what he thinks he’s worth, and I’m sure his agents have called around to see what kind of offers he could get if he enters restricted free agency.”

Another Western Conference executive agreed that he’s not worth the max, telling HoopsHype: “Out of Pascal Siakam, Jaylen Brown, Brandon Ingram and Buddy Hield, [the main candidates remaining for a rookie-scale extension], I don’t think any of them will get the max or deserve the max. If I was running each team, I would force them to play it out. In some situations, keeping their cap holds is so much more beneficial. You should only extend if you get a below-market-value deal or if it’s a no-brainer extension.”

If the Raptors come in at less than the max with an offer, Siakam may just want to play out this season and head into restricted free agency next summer. If he has another strong season, when he hits the market in a down year for free agents he may find a team willing to make a max or near max offer and Toronto will have to match or let him walk. Essentially, Siakam would bet on himself.

We’ll see if Toronto and Siakam’s people can find a number that works for both sides, the deadline is Oct. 21. The sides are talking, but its more likely this rolls into next summer.

Alex Abrines says Russell Westbrook stood by him through mental health issues

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Alex Abrines is a big fan of Russell Westbrook the person.

Westbrook takes some hits as a selfish teammate from some quarters of NBA fandom, but Abrines had to leave the Thunder due to personal, mental health issues and said Westbrook stood by him. This is from an interview with Basket en Movistar+, via Eurohoops.

“He’s a very nice guy. He helped me a lot especially in the first year. In most of our trips we did something together, watch a movie, have dinner. When I went through all this and did not travel with the team, he kept in touch. He asked me to meet him for dinner. He cared for the person beyond the player. He calmly told me what I should do noting that he would support me if I decided to leave.”

“Athletes are normal people, but are pressured above average. Medication helps, but at the end of the day you must seek professional aid, discuss with friends and family, move forward with their support” adds Abrines on his illness, “It is a different kind of pain. Physical pain is something you can see and feel. Mental pain can not be observed and can not be treated like an injured knee for example. If you don’t go through something similar, you can’t realize it. In the end of the day, money is not above everything. Until it happens, you don’t realize that you don’t give a shit about money.”

Abrines signed with FC Barcelona, but could not travel with the team to all its games last season. He’s still on his path to wellness, and hopefully he gets there.

We tend to think of professional athletes in two dimensions, focusing on how they entertain us or help our fantasy teams. However, as Abrines notes, they are ordinary people with families and challenges, including mental health issues. More and more players are willing to speak out about that, but having friends — not just teammates, but real supporters like Westbrook was here — is also a big help.