Whenever Durant returns, Blazers-Warriors series shouldn't change much

Whenever Durant returns, Blazers-Warriors series shouldn't change much

I suppose a person could, if properly motivated, make an argument that without Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors tend to make a more concerted and consistent effort defensively.
It’s a grab at straws, of course, because the Warriors are a strong defensive team in general (and take your complaints about Charles Barkley to Charles Barkley, okay?), but as a function of beating the Portland Trail Blazers, 110-81, in this Western Conference first round blowout-under-construction, they negated what the Blazers did well in Game 1 (Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum) without being hurt by what they didn’t (the rest of the roster), and turned a relative white-knuckler three days ago into a stern and comprehensive smothering.
So maybe that’s the actual myth of Kevin Durant – that the Warriors should be fretted over without him. They are better with him, and only a moron would argue otherwise, but it may well be that they personally emphasize their defensive requirements more assiduously.
“They understand that on their own,” head coach Steve Kerr said as he surveyed the box score that showed that Portland scored 35 points in the second half. “They know that defense is what we’re built on. People talk about our shooting and our guards all the time, but this has been a great defensive team since, well, since before I got here. I think it’s been the last five years.”
Close enough; they’ve been in the top fifth of the league in defensive rating each year since 2014, and the least of their defenders are still league average or above. And if defense was strong before Durant arrived, it would stand to reason that defense would remain a mental emphasis.
Indeed, Wednesday’s performance probably made it more difficult for Durant to play in Game 3, because whatever urgency Kerr could fight off to play him in Game 2 with his wonky calf muscle is that much less urgent in Game 3.
“If he can play, he’s going to play,” Kerr said, “but if there’s any question, then we won’t play him.”
Indeed, there are more things for Portland’s Terry Stotts to think about between now and Saturday, starting with the seeming disappearance of his backcourt. Lillard and McCollum were guarded with more bodies, got fewer good looks, and missed 25 of their 34 combined shots. McCollum in particular looked like he was hampered with an injury that kept him from being as physically dynamic as he was in Game 1, and without big man Jusuf Nurkic, the Blazers had to play both small and short, and could do neither well.
There is no smart guess on if/when Nurkic will be back, although healing rates have been proven to increase in direct relation to the number of wins the opponent has. It is also unclear on how much of a difference he can make, save disrupting McGee and Zaza Pachulia from having their run of the paint. Indeed, this series has not played to expected form because of all the missing and disadvantaged pieces, but the differences between the two sides are still as stark as your typical No. 1-No. 8 match.
And it only stands to be more stark when Durant returns, whenever that is.
“Obviously they’re a better team with him on the floor, more talent and more weapons,” Lillard said afterward, “but they were a championship team before he got here. So we didn’t look at it as an opportunity with him not being off the floor. We knew it would be tough either way.”
And it has been. Barring a massive change in both teams’ form in Portland Saturday and Monday, it seems likely to stay that way.

GM Bob Myers reiterates Warriors' stance on signing Steph Curry long term

GM Bob Myers reiterates Warriors' stance on signing Steph Curry long term

DANVILLE -- Everything the Warriors have said and done, as well as everything Stephen Curry has said, indicates there is no chance of a divorce, even though Curry becomes an unrestricted free agent at 12:01 a.m. Saturday morning.

Curry has pointed out numerous times that he plans to sign with the Warriors, implying that it would be pointless for other teams to pursue him on the open market.

And on Wednesday afternoon, Warriors president and general manager Bob Myers reiterated the team’s stance regarding the two-time MVP by expressing Curry would be a top priority.

“He’s got to be,” Myers said at Monte Vista High School, where he and Warriors forward Draymond Green was subjects of a news conference/pep rally in the wake of Myers being named Executive of the Year and Green being named Defensive Player of the Year.

Myers was careful not to slight other players the Warriors expect to re-sign, such as Kevin Durant, and those the team hopes to retain, notably Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.

“Actually, we’ve got a lot of priorities,” Myers said. “But, certainly, touching all of them and making sure we do our job and make sure they know we want them is important,” Myers said. “But he knows how we feel. I think he’s happy. But he’s a huge priority.”

The Warriors are allowed to pay Curry about $200 million over the next five seasons, and CEO Joe Lacob has said he’s ready to do whatever it takes.

Jordan Bell: 'I think Markelle Fultz would rather be...'

Jordan Bell: 'I think Markelle Fultz would rather be...'

Markelle Fultz was selected No. 1 overall.

Jordan Bell had to wait until the 38th pick to get drafted.

"I think I'm in the best spot," Bell said on 95.7 The Game on Wednesday. "I think Markelle Fultz would rather be in my position than his (laughter)."

Apparently, joining the defending champions and getting the opportunity to play with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson is a pretty good situation to be in.

Bell revealed that he thought he was going to be taken somewhere in the 19-31 range.

As he continued to slide, he was extremely frustrated.

[RELATED: A behind-the-scenes-look at Jordan Bell's NBA Draft party]

But then he found out that the Warriors -- who paid the Bulls $3.5 million for Bell's rights -- were his new team.

And all was good in the world.

What are Bell's plans over the next couple of weeks and months?

"Been up here for awhile working out with the team, lifting, getting to know the players a little bit," Bell explained. "Definitely going to play in Summer League and then right after that, I'm going to try to find a place out here, move in right away so I can just get ready to help the team out as much as possible."

Ben Simmons -- the top pick in the 2016 draft -- made about $5.9 million as a rookie (he didn't play a single game).

Pat McCaw -- the 38th pick in the 2016 draft -- made about $543,000.

No word yet on Bell's contract details with the Warriors...

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders and a Web Producer at NBC Sports Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller