The Kevin Durant-to-the-Warriors rumor just won’t go away, and for that, he and coach Steve Kerr have only themselves to blame.
Durant and Kerr had a brief conversation near the Warriors’ bench last Thursday night, the content of which remained a hot topic days later as well it should be. Because if Durant signs with the Champs as a free agent this summer, the NBA may as well call off next season and present the Larry O’Brien Trophy at Oracle Arena right now.
Kerr declined to go into depth about the subject matter except to claim that it had to do with Durant’s preference for local restaurants. Whatever was said, they shared a laugh about it.
An expert lip reader told Balls that Kerr actually said this: “C’mon, K.D., do you really want to be Russell Westbrook’s caddie for the rest of your life?”
Durant is a four-time league scoring leader and one-time Most Valuable Player, among the two or three best all-around players in the world. What Durant is not is a champion, and he’ll never be that with Westbrook on his team.
There may be no better athlete than Westbrook in the league. In a skills competition or one-on-one tournament, Balls would take him in a nanosecond. But if the object is to win a championship, it wants no part of him. He’s an egomaniac without a conscience, an Allen Iversonon steroids with no concept of team.
Now compare those traits to the Warriors’ Stephen Curry, who has no small ego himself. The difference is, Curry won’t allow his to get in the way of the team goal, the only thing that matters.
Durant will have several options in the weeks ahead, and at 27, he can’t afford to miss on this one. He could hitch his future to the Thunder for the long term. Or he could return on a two-year deal that would give him the option to bolt with Westbrook after the 2016-17 season. Or he could sign with the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers or his hometown Washington Wizards to name a few rumored destinations.
“Ultimately, that’s what you want — to make a decision on your own and to make a decision that makes you happy,” Durant wouldn’t tip his hand to USA Today recently. “That makes everything just wide open at this point.”
Or if both sides are comfortable with the terms, Durant could pursue history with Curry, Kerr, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson in a larger market. If K.D. wants to be known as a champion — and there should be little doubt that he does at this stage — then that may be no decision at all.
JUST SAYIN’: The Warriors are in Los Angeles for the 56th victory of the season today, and wouldn’t the blowout be more fun if assistant Luke Walton were allowed to coach the Lakers, because after all, he will soon, anyway?
OH, THOSE CRAZY BEARS: If anybody has the Cal hoops team figured out by now, please let Balls know, won’t you?
Two nights after Cuonzo Martin’s team allowed Arizona to reel off the final 11 points in a 64-61 stunner, it rallied from a 10-point deficit to score a 68-65 victory over Arizona State on Saturday. The Bears nailed down the No. 3 seed in the Pac-12 tournament and a bye in the first round.
At a time when Cal needed somebody to step up, senior Tyrone Wallace answered the call with a season-high 24 points, 19 in the second half.
“A big win for us,” Wallace described it. “After a hard-fought loss at Arizona, we could have let that bring us down. But we didn’t focus too much on that.”
At 12-6, Cal finished two games behind Oregon in the regular season. The Bears will have some time off before their quarterfinals opener on Thursday in Las Vegas.
NO, JOHNNY, NO: Johnny Cueto was scratched from his Giants debut on Saturday as a precautionary measure, manager Bruce Bochy said, which was just as well. The guy pitched 237 innings last season, including 25 in the World Series, and most veterans pitchers don’t require more than three or four starts to find their groove at this time of year, anyway.
(Fun Fact of the Day: In 1969, the great Juan Marichal pitched 240 2/3 innings before the Labor Day, but that was back when men were men.)
The last thing the Giants need is for someone to break a forearm in training camp, which was precisely what Hunter Pence did at this time last year, a bad omen if there ever was one.
DON’T SLEEP ON BEAST MODE: Expect Raiders bossman Reggie McKenzie to make a really big splash in the free agent pool this week. Pride and Poise have their sights on a power back to replace tippy-toed Latavius Murray, who proved last season that he’s more of a cruiser than a bruiser.
Veteran Doug Martin is at the top of the want list, and it’s hard forget how the Tampa Bay Buccaneer went off for 251 yards and four touchdowns at O.co Coliseum four years ago. Chris Ivory is a less costly option.
Then there’s Marshawn Lynch.
Lynch claims to be retired — when last seen, he was riding a camel in Egypt — but it may be nothing more than a ploy. If the Seattle Seahawks release him, which they will have to do before Thursday to avoid an $11.5-million cap hit for next season, he’ll be free to sign with any team. At 29, the Oakland native still could be effective in short-yardage situations if healthy, and Balls can’t think of a better place than the Black Hole to finish his career.
ALMOST THERE: Oh, and don’t forget your Santa Clara 49ers, who only need two wide receivers, a quarterback, running back, guard, defensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback, field director, general manager, team owner …
TWO RICH TO BE FORGOTTEN: While the York family receives a lot of flack for the sad state of the 49ers’ franchise, Hasso Plattner and John Fisher continue to get off way too easy.
Yes, there really is a Hasso Plattner, and the Sharks’ owner ranks No. 7 on the latest Forbes list of billionaire team owners, 63 in all.
Plattner reportedly has a net worth of $7.9 billion, which is about as much as Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavericks) and Robert Kraft (New England Patriots) combined. To see the San Jose Hockey Country Club play over the years, puckheads would never know it.
The Gap-toothed Fisher isn’t any better. The tightwad ranks 39th at $2.2 billion, yet the A’s continue to pinch pennies like grains of salt.
The Giants’ Charles Johnson ($4.6 billion) checked in at 22nd overall, while Denise York ($1.9 million) was 48th on the list. The Raiders’ Mark Davis and Warriors’ Joe Lacob failed to make the cut, not that we should hold a telethon or anything.
(Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? A compliment?! Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, and who knows, you may get your name in the paper before long.)