OAKLAND — A the tail end of the Golden State Warriors’ first practice of the second half, Kevin Durant was off on his own court while the vast majority of the squad scrimmaged behind a giant blue screen that dissected the club’s practice facility.
By the time he addressed the media, Durant was drenched in sweat. Famed for his work ethic and tireless practice routines, he is ready to attack the final stretch.
When a reporter asked about all the problems plaguing the Warriors during the runup to the All-Star break, Durant bristled at the premise.
“All the issues? I mean, we’ve got 44 wins though,” Durant retorted.
At 44-14, the Warriors enter the final 24 games in unfamiliar territory, staring up at the Houston Rockets for the top spot in the Western Conference, half a game back.
Durant oozed confidence, never expressing an ounce of concern. The nine-time All-Star talked of tightening up schemes, switching up pick-and-roll coverages and finding new ways to facilitate the offense.
“Now, I know it’s not Warriors of the last few years, as far as the record is concerned,” Durant conceded. “But we’re still a damn good team. And I’m not going to sit here and let anybody say that we’re struggling or hang our heads because we lost a few [games]. We’re still a damn good team.”
Like Durant, Draymond Green was back in the building, feeling as confident and invigorated as ever.
“Practice was really good,” Green said. “I think everybody came back with fresh new energy — ready to go [and] guys [were] locked in.”
Green, who like Durant had spent part of the break in Los Angeles for All-Star Weekend, was also sure to get his rest.
“Just chilled. Kicked back,” Green said when asked how he passed his free time.
Steve Kerr, fresh off his trip to Hawaii, sported a beard — or what counts as such for the usually clean-shaven head coach. A silver stubble glistened across his face as he addressed basketball — and social topics, like gun control — with his usual aplomb.
“It was a good practice,” Kerr said. “We know our flaws. We know where we’ve been failing and we know what we need to do to get things going again and I think our guys have a pretty good feel for that and I think we’ll play play well.”
It’s no secret what afflicted the Warriors during a lackluster stretch leading into the break. The turnovers were too frequent, the starts were too slow and the defense was too lax. Green said as much as he surveyed the court — where Durant was busy getting up shots — on Wednesday night.
But for a team that for too long has been stricken with a malaise, the finish line is finally out on the horizon.
“It seems to take forever for 24 games to happen between January and the All-Star break,” Kerr said. “And 24 after that go by pretty fast.”
Twenty-four games. That’s all that stands between the Warriors and when it really counts.
“Now you know what you’re working towards,” Green said. “We know where we need to be. We know what it takes to win a championship. To know now that we’ve got 24 games as a team to get better and get ready for the playoffs, it gives a little life.”
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